Modeling biodiversity of the New York coastal urban fringe
Hurricane Sandy was a deadly reminder of the risks coastal storms pose for New York City (NYC). On the frontline of NYC’s natural defenses is Jamaica Bay, a unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA), on the southern shore of Long Island, New York. Jamaica Bay is a large lagoon characterized by natural coastal ecosystems: beaches, dunes, salt marshes, shallow and deep marine water surrounded by diverse human communities and critical infrastructure. As a large natural area in a dense urban matrix, the resilience of Jamaica Bay is critical for millions of people (and species) for whom the bay provides home, recreational opportunities, and coastal protection. Understanding the resilience of this valuable natural ecosystem will strongly influence the success of any management actions taken on the part of the National Park Service, which manages the GNRA, and its partners in NYC government.
Visionmaker Jamaica Bay (VJB) is a tool that enables people to use the Internet to develop and share climate-resilient designs (“visions”) for Jamaica Bay based on realistic models of environmental performance: water, carbon, biodiversity, and population. A vision represents a user’s ideas about the best configuration of ecosystems, lifestyle choices, and relevant climate scenarios to use in planning for the future. We adapted VJB’s biodiversity module to predict species richness (for birds, plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals) in visions under current and climate-altered scenarios by incorporating information on species-area relationships (SAR) modified by climate and minimum required area (i.e. home range). Minimum required area values for birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals were derived from the literature; for fishes, areas were derived from fork length and for plants from seed dispersal distances. Species-area-climate relationships were derived based on regressions using data from across the eastern seaboard.
We present the details and show the use of the 297 bird species, 425 plants, 79 fishes, 8 amphibians, 13 reptiles, and 18 mammals in Jamaica Bay for biodiversity prediction. SAR-climate regression predictions explained much of the variation in species richness by latitude for mammals (r2 = 0.56, p = 0.0167) and reptiles (r2 = 0.67, p = 0.0042). Validation of biodiversity predictions from user visions against field collected data will be demonstrated. User visions, with biodiversity estimates, can be used to plan restoration in a regionally appropriate manner with community support. Thus, our methods and results can be used for resiliency planning by local and state agencies in the area.