Unlocking Northeastern Forests: Nature’s Laboratories for Global Change

Though plants provide the food, shelter, and oxygen that sustain all other living beings, we are only beginning to understand how even the most familiar plant ecosystems are responding to environmental disturbances such as pollution, human land-use and global climate change. Fortunately to understand our future, we can also look to signs from the past.

Historic plant collections can provide an essential perspective for studying long-term changes in these environments because they chronicle distinct species–and whole communities of organisms–that have lived in particular places and at different points in time. Right now, the New York Botanical Garden is partnering with 14 other research institutions to develop a groundbreaking new dataset for all specimens of vascular plants collected from the Northeast US*.

unlocking-northeastern-forests-nybg

By connecting this network of researchers to the data captured by 1.3 million preserved specimens, participants in this citizen science expedition will help to illuminate subtle variations in species richness and forest composition over time. With your help, understanding how changes in the environment have affected the forests of yesterday will help us to predict how current human behavior will shape the forests of tomorrow!

*This project is funded by an award from the National Science Foundation (EF-1503583)

 

Charles Zimmerman, Herbarium Collections & Outreach Administrator, The New York Botanical Garden

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