Tree stewardship

Tree stewardship

Last week I have visited Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) to discuss our research project about civic ecology education and to adjust the data collection plan for the next year. YMPJ is one of my community partner organizations that contributes to youth and community development, and improves the environment in neighborhoods along the Bronx River. In summer YMPJ employs youth through the NYC Summer Youth Employment Program. Some youth return to this organization and stay involved in environmental programs throughout the year, and sometimes even choose an environmental career when they eventually go to college.

Luckily, this time I came too early for a meeting with YMPJ staff, and I have observed one of environmental projects, which I have not expected to see. Several youth were involved in a tree stewardship activity together with their environmental educator Stephen Oliveira. While youth were adding compost to improve the soil under the street trees, some of them were telling me about various benefits of urban trees. I am sure that YMPJ is very proud of these young people who improve the urban environment and learn about the management of natural resources in the Bronx.


Bronx River Crossing

Bronx River model

Today I came to the Hunts Point Riverside Park just on the whim after a meeting in this neighborhood. And what a surprise: after I walked through the park and approached the Bronx River, I saw several people from the Bronx River Alliance and Rocking the Boat who I collaborate with. They were doing something with a huge unusual structure floating on plastic bottles on water. It was the launch of the Bronx River Crossing model that represented the Bronx River watershed and was build primarily with reused materials. The SLO Architecture organization had worked with four student teams in the Bronx to build this model that demonstrates complex social and ecological features of the watershed. More information about the Bronx River Crossing can be found on Building this model might have been educational for youth and has probably developed some skills or knowledge that are different from what you can learn from participation in actual restoration of urban ecosystems.

Ecosystem services

West Farms

Earlier this year I have met with Dr. Elena Bennett, one of co-authors of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report (2005). She suggested that ecosystems are more likely to be healthy when they are managed to produce multiple ecosystem services. For example, a community garden would be in a better state if it provided food, space for community events, and habitats for pollinators, as opposed to a community garden that is used only to provide food. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework distinguishes four types of ecosystem services: (1) Supporting such as soil formation, (2) Provisioning such as food, fuel and fresh water, (3) Regulating including climate and flood regulation, and (4) Cultural such as aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational. Some more specific examples of ecosystem services can be found in this factsheet (PDF), which I helped to develop while working with the Urban Environment Program at the Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC.

I took this photo of Drew Gardens in the West Farms neighborhood of the Bronx after I moved back to the Bronx on August 1st, 2009. Drew Gardens is an excellent example of community-based ecosystem management for multiple ecosystem services because it provides fresh food, recreational and educational opportunities, habitat for wildlife, retains stormwater, cools down the air in summer, and contributes to community building. I will explore how the framework of ecosystem services can be connected to sense of place in the context of my research project about civic ecology education in the Bronx.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: a report of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.