Bioscape Initiative

Bioscape Initiative

Why a New York Bioscape Initiative?

The Need
In the New York City Metropolitan Region, suburban sprawl and development are eroding the ecological foundation necessary for biodiversity and health. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of local conservationists, increasing numbers of plants and animals are at risk because of polluted, degraded, and fragmented habitats. And, perhaps, even more alarming is that human health seems increasingly to be in jeopardy from environmental causes.

For example, ground water pollution is on the rise and withdrawals are exceeding local water demands in many watersheds, and key air quality indicators of health, such as rising mercury levels, are signaling alarm. Also of concern is the suspected link between emerging diseases (e.g. West Nile virus and Lyme''s disease) and environmental degradation. Are we creating the context for these diseases? Furthermore, despite the fact that the region''s overall population growth has slowed to less than 1% annually, many municipalities located in important areas (e.g. the Highlands, Pocono Mountains, and Hudson River watershed) are growing at much higher, and environmentally damaging, rates.

To reverse unhealthy trends in the New York City metropolitan ecology, we believe that ultimately a practice of sustainable living that protects both biodiversity and human health must be adopted and embraced by area residents. We suggest that a key step toward this end is for regional conservation scientists, health professionals, resource managers, decision makers, and engaged citizens to better understand together the connections between biodiversity, health, and natural resource management. Such a “knowledge community” would apply their findings by producing synthesis documents on key issues, recommending new environmental policies, and developing best practices for managing natural resources on both public and private lands.

Goals and Objectives
In 2002, Wildlife Trust launched a new program in the greater New York City metropolitan area: the New York Bioscape Initiative. The New York Bioscape region was created by first drawing a 100-mile radius from midtown New York City. This is the locally familiar "Tri-State Region" of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut stretched to include northeastern Pennsylvania. Next, to encompass a region based on the "New York Metro sense of place," 44 counties were selected. The New York Bioscape Initiative is bringing together scientists, health professionals, natural resource managers, and citizens to conserve biodiversity and to ensure the region’s long-term ecological health, including human health. Currently, this team includes 36 individuals from 16 institutions. The central scientific goal of the Initiative is to study regional ecology and health and apply the findings to mitigating sprawl and fostering regional ecological health, including human health.