These Wetlands Helped Stop Flooding From Sandy. Now a BJ’s May Move In.

A group of Staten Island residents concerned about climate change is challenging the project.

It is an unlikely centerpiece for a save-the-wetlands campaign: a patch of woods and swamps surrounded by strip malls and service roads on the densely populated, industrial northern shore of Staten Island. To nearby residents fighting to preserve it, the parcel is a bulwark against disaster. The 28 acres are part of a network of wetlands that in 2012 helped protect the area from the deadliest floods of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated New York City and killed 43 residents, more than half of them in Staten Island.

But the land’s developer has a different vision: a giant BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Written by: Anne Barnard. Photo by: Amr Alfiky.

Read more from the article: https://nyti.ms/3qnGIVC

‘Gasping for air’: How Staten Island’s air pollution served as dangerous antecedent to COVID-19 outbreak

Interviews with over a half dozen experts and Staten Island residents reveal how air pollution served as a dangerous antecedent to a coronavirus outbreak that ravaged the borough and underscores the need to improve ozone smog on the Island.

…And while the North Shore — above the Staten Island Expressway — has over half the population of the rest of the borough, it has only around 30% the number of trees compared to the Island below the expressway, giving it less green space that can improve air quality, according to NYC Parks Department data.

That total could be further diminished by the creation of a BJ’s Wholesale Club that would result in the destruction of 18 acres of woodland next to the wetlands in Mariners Harbor.

These are excerpts from the article. Read the full article at: https://bit.ly/3c4Cltm

Written by: Joseph Ostapiuk.

Kudzu Ate the South…Now Looks North

Posted By Gabriella Velardi-Ward/Charlie Olson

ecosystems

wetland benefits

Kudzu Ate the South…Now Looks North

In 1876, an Asian vine was introduced to the people of the United States at a centennial celebration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a fairly benign looking vine, with its leaves of three and its cluster of sweet pea like flowers, but its exotic appeal must have been quite enticing, because it took off…and not just in popularity.

The plant that caught the eye of these early Americans was called kudzu (or kuzu in Japanese). It is a plant in the genus Pueraria in the family Fabaceae (the pea family). The plants first introduced to the U.S. were likely to have consisted of more than a single species such as P. montanaP. lobataP. edulis, and others, or were hybrids of these species. They were initially lauded for their ornamental value but soon after were recognized for their potential as animal feed. By the 1930’s, when soil erosion had become a major issue, kudzu was deployed by the U.S. government to combat it. At least 85 million government-funded kudzu seedlings later, and the southeastern portion of the United States had secured a future dominated by this relentless and unforgiving vine.

Innocent and harmless is how kudzu must have first appeared, especially to those looking for a fast growing, large-leaved, vining plant to provide quick shade for porches, offering relief from the sun during those sweltering southern summers. Little did they know, however, if left unchecked, that prized vine could engulf homes and outbuildings, cover and pull down trees and utility poles, and choke out crops and pastures in the matter of a single growing season.

(photo credit: eol.org)

Kudzu was added to the Federal Noxious Weed List in 1997, long after it had established itself throughout the southeastern U.S. It now covers more than 3 million hectares, spreading at a pace of about 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) per year. It is said that a kudzu vine can grow up to a foot in a single day or about 60 feet in a growing season. It is a twining vine, wrapping itself around any upright structure it can access and relying on that support in order to advance upwards. This gives it the advantage of using more resources for growth and expansion of both roots and shoots rather than on the resource demanding task of producing woody stems. Like other members of the pea family, it gets much of its nitrogen from the atmosphere through a process called nitrogen fixation. Because of this, kudzu can thrive in nutrient poor soils. Kudzu is also drought-tolerant, has leaves that follow the sun throughout the day in order to maximize photosynthesis, reproduces clonally by layering (stems in contact with the ground grow roots and detach from the parent plant), and (in North America) is free from the pests and diseases commonly associated with it in its native habitat. For these reasons and others, kudzu has become one of the most notorious, pervasive, and ecologically harmful weeds in the U.S., costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages every year.

A close-up of kudzu flowers (photo credit: wikimedia commons)
kudzu foliage and flowers

One glance at what kudzu has done in the southeastern states, and it is obvious that it is some kind of superweed. I saw firsthand just how overwhelming it can be as I drove through Mississippi several years ago. I didn’t even have to stop the car to investigate. It was easily apparent that it was the dominant species, enveloping every tree for miles alongside the highway. Currently, kudzu can be found in every county in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. But kudzu has a limitation; it doesn’t care much for freezing temperatures. Even though it has been present in parts of northern states – like Ohio, New Jersey, and Delaware – for a while now, it has generally been limited to milder locations, and it certainly doesn’t thrive in the same way that it does in the subtropical climates of the southern states. But that is changing, because the climate is changing.

Average global temperatures increased by about 1.53° F between 1880 and 2012, and this gradual increase is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Biologists and ecologists are monitoring changes in climate closely in order to observe and predict changes in the biology and ecology of our planet. Invasive species are high on the list of concerns, as climate is often a major limitation to their spread. Now that kudzu has been found in Marblehead, Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada, the fear of kudzu climbing north is becoming a reality.

Kudzu is incredibly difficult to control. It does not respond to many herbicides, and the herbicides that do affect it must be applied repeatedly over a long time period. It is an excellent forage plant, so utilizing grazing animals to keep it in check can be effective. Those who have succumbed to kudzu, acknowledging that it is here to stay, have found uses for it, including making baskets, paper, biofuel, and various food items. A compound extracted from the kudzu root is also being studied as a possible treatment for alcoholism. Kudzu has long been valued for its culinary and medicinal uses in Asia, so it is no surprise that uses would be found for it in North America. However, North Americans who embrace kudzu are taking a defeatist approach. That is, “if we can’t get rid of it, we may as well find a use for it.” This, however, should not negate nor distract from the damage it has caused and continues to cause local ecosystems and the ecological threat that it poses to areas where it is just now being introduced or may soon be introduced due to our warming climate.

Millions of dollars are spent every year to address the effects kudzu has on utility poles (phot credi: eol.org)

References:

– Encyclopedia of Life: Pueraria Montana

– Wikipedia: Kudzu in the United States

– Max Shores: The Amazing Story of Kudzu

– U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Conservation in a Changing Climate

– NASA Earth Observatory: How Much More Will the Earth Warm?

 Bloomberg: Kudzu That Ate U.S. South Heads North as Climate ChangesPosted in BotanyPlant Ecology | Tagged Botanyclimate changeconservationecologyecosystemsethnobotanyexotic speciesflowersinvasive specieskudzuplant ecologyvines |

Can Staten Island Address its Clean Air Crisis?

Like many families during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic on Staten Island, New York, I visited parks outside of my neighborhood. As a new resident, it was an opportunity to get more acquainted with the borough’s well known open green spaces. But primarily it offered an opportunity to breathe cleaner air for my family as a result of living downwind from an oil refinery.

Written by: Ajamu Brown. Read more from the article: https://bit.ly/36SfGhc

#HelpSaveGranitevilleWetlands Twitter Storm In Partnership with Anthropocene Alliance

Thursday, October 1st from 12 PM – 2 PM: #HelpSaveGranitevilleWetlands Twitter Storm.

We are partnered up with the Anthropocene Alliance–the largest network of flood survivors– to create a twitter storm to get Governor Cuomo’s attention.

Visit https://bit.ly/3jkg1y9 to learn how to participate in under 10 minutes!

RSVP on Facebook by clicking the following link: https://bit.ly/2SdObaT

Climate Week: Climate Justice through Racial Justice

Wednesday, September 23rd: The Intricacies and Intersections of Climate, Abolition, and Decolonization Webinar on  @ 6pm via Zoom. Click this link to sign up for the webinar.

The Racial Justice, Climate Justice Webinar will be an interactive workshop highlighting the intersection of abolition and climate organizing. Our webinar will kickoff with talks from two local climate organizers and then break out into small groups to discuss case studies.

TOPICS TO COVER:

  • Connecting Prison & Police Abolition to Climate Justice
  • Histories of Abolitionist & Climate Aligned Organizing
  • Renewable Rikers & New Jails
  • Pipeline Defenders & Standing Rock

Visit https://www.pcmny.org/ to learn more details of 2020 Climate Week events.