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Title: Urban stewardship as a catalyst for recovery and change

Author: Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Sonti, Nancy F.; Baine, Gillian.;

Date: 2015

Source: In: Brandt, D.H.; Nordenson, C.S., eds. Waterproofing New York. Urban Research. 2: 104-111.

Publication Series: Book Chapter

Description: Current scientific conversation and practice often emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary research in tackling complex, contemporary issues. Direct observation is one of the most abiding, and sometimes overlooked, scientific methods that is common across most disciplines. On a summer afternoon in 2012, our USDA Forest Service research team went for a hike along a long stretch of the Rockaways—a peninsula abutting Jamaica Bay. Our goal was to explore this urban gradient—its shifts in land use and vegetative cover—and to better understand the methods each one of us used to "read the landscape." Walking through areas of plant cover, the foresters among us indicated places where invasive vines were choking out the native understory, or where saltwater inundation appeared to have impacted the health of street trees. We learned that forest ecologists use these observations as clues to better understand, and perhaps even predict, ecosystem health. As we continued our walk, we came to another part of this community characterized by a dense assortment of single-family homes and multistory buildings. We passed some blocks that appeared entirely abandoned except for the numerous cats jumping in and out of broken windows. One of the social scientists among us asked our group to pause as she noted a woman sweeping the sidewalk in front of a boarded-up house. Here, too, was an indicator of ecosystem health: a simple act of stewardship can hold great promise for bolstering recovery and resilience.

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Svendsen, Erika S.; Campbell, Lindsay K.; Sonti, Nancy F.; Baine, Gillian. 2015. Urban stewardship as a catalyst for recovery and change. In: Brandt, D.H.; Nordenson, C.S., eds. Waterproofing New York. Urban Research. 2: 104-111.


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