Duncan R.P.,Lincoln University at Christchurch |
Clemants S.E.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden |
Corlett R.T.,National University of Singapore |
Hahs A.K.,Australian Research Center for Urban Ecology |
And 9 more authors.
Global Ecology and Biogeography | Year: 2011
Aim Urban environments around the world share many features in common, including the local extinction of native plant species. We tested the hypothesis that similarity in environmental conditions among urban areas should select for plant species with a particular suite of traits suited to those conditions, and lead to the selective extinction of species lacking those traits. Location Eleven cities with data on the plant species that persisted and those that went locally extinct within at least the last 100 years following urbanization. Methods We compiled data on 11 plant traits for 8269 native species in the 11 cities and used hierarchical logistic regression models to identify the degree to which traits could distinguish species that persisted from those that went locally extinct in each city. The trait effects from each city were then combined in a meta-analysis. Results The cities fell into two groups: those with relatively low rates of extinction (less than 0.05% species per year - Adelaide, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco), for which no traits reliably predicted the pattern of extinction, and those with higher rates of extinction (>0.08% species per year - Auckland, Chicago, Melbourne, New York, Singapore and Worcester, MA), where short-statured, small-seeded plants were more likely to go extinct. Main conclusions Our analysis reveals patterns in trait selectivity consistent with local studies, suggesting some consistency in trait selection by urbanization. Overall, however, few traits reliably predicted the pattern of plant extinction across cities, making it difficult to identify a priori the extinction-prone species most likely to be affected by urban expansion. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Figueiredo E.,University of Pretoria |
Moore G.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden |
Smith G.F.,South African National Biodiversity Institute |
Smith G.F.,University of Pretoria
Taxon | Year: 2010
Article 36.1 of the International code of botanical nomenclature (McNeill & al., 2006) requires that, as from 1 January 1935, all names of new plant taxa (algae and fossils excepted) can be validly published only if they are accompanied by a Latin description or diagnosis or by a reference to an effectively published Latin diagnosis or description. Although several past Nomenclature Section meetings have voted on proposals to have this requirement lifted, the liberation of plant nomenclature, and by implication plant taxonomy, from this impediment remains elusive. We argue that the Latin requirement must be removed now as it represents a relict that does not serve the purposes for which it was originally intended. Previous proposals to delete the requirement of a Latin description or diagnosis for the valid publication of a plant name have all had strings attached. We propose (Figueiredo & al. in Taxon 59: 659-660, this issue) that, as from the effective date of the Melbourne Code (a suitable date after the Melbourne Congress), a diagnosis or description in any language would suffice to effect valid publication of a plant name, the algae and fossils excepted, provided all of the other provisions for valid publication have been satisfied.
Smith G.F.,South African National Biodiversity Institute |
Smith G.F.,University of Pretoria |
Figueiredo E.,University of Pretoria |
Moore G.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Taxon | Year: 2011
We maintain that a review of the way in which votes that can be cast to influence the amendment of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) are allocated is overdue. Although there will no doubt be resistance to proposed changes that may emanate from such a review, a more representative system of vote allocation to herbaria, among other things, will considerably enhance the credibility and robustness of the voting system. A rebuttal addressing two criteria we suggest as examples of what could be used as part of a review to make the voting system more representative was recently published by Applequist & al. It is regrettable that in the face of unambiguous statistics that show the inadequacy of the current ICBN amendment voting system, the need for change is not embraced with due urgency. A fear of power sharing and decentralization may well be the root cause.
Smith G.F.,South African National Biodiversity Institute |
Smith G.F.,University of Pretoria |
Figueiredo E.,University of Pretoria |
Moore G.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Taxon | Year: 2010
The tropical, subtropical and some temperate regions of the world are home to large components of the known global flora. However, the herbaria in these countries, often classified as so-called emerging economies, hold a fraction of the votes that influence and decide proposals to amend the International code of botanical nomenclature. We argue that the allocation of votes to herbaria should more closely reflect the richness of the plant diversity of the country in which the herbarium is situated, as well as the size of the population using the names associated with the flora. Globally, in every single sphere of life and human endeavour, minority rule is not only frowned upon, it is rejected, often with contempt. There is no reason why, in the second decade of the 21st century, decision-making in plant nomenclature should be affected by a minority of institutions from countries with some of the world's most depauperate floras. The way in which some nomenclature committees, and the Nomenclature Section itself, have advocated a particular point of view on the typification of the genus name Acacia Mill. at the International Botanical Congress held in Vienna in 2005 has indicated just how far developing nations and continents have been left behind in the plant nomenclature debate. The IAPT could now proactively initiate a debate and process that will ultimately ensure a better representation for neglected herbaria, and therefore the countries in which they are situated, that lack a voice in plant nomenclatural matters.
Barringer K.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas | Year: 2010
Angelonia parviflora Barringer, sp. nov. is a new species from Yucatan and Quimana Roo, Mexico. It differs from other Mexican species of Angelonia by its small flowers and fruits. It is geographically isolated on the limestone savannas ofthe northern Yucatan Peninsula.
Lee C.J.,City University of New York |
Baxt A.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden |
Castillo S.,City University of New York |
Berkov A.,City University of New York
Biotropica | Year: 2014
When tropical rain forest insect species are associated with a particular season or forest stratum, it can imply tolerance for heat and drought-or moisture dependence; attributes that may predict their responses to global climate change. In French Guiana (1995-1996), wood-boring cerambycid beetles made a seasonal shift in stratum. During the dry season, ground stratum bait branches were densely colonized, but during the rainy season almost all cerambycids emerged from canopy stratum branches. Because the same substrate was available at both levels, abiotic factors probably influenced branch selection. In this study, cerambycids were reared at the same site (2007-2008) to determine if the seasonal shift recurred. Microclimate data (temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed) were collected with portable weather meters to test the hypothesis that microclimate would be similar at ground stratum during the dry season, and at canopy stratum during the rainy season. The seasonal shift in stratum did recur; many cerambycid individuals (56%) belonged to species classified as 'seasonal shifters'. Temperatures in the preferred microhabitats were intermediate, but relative humidity remained high during the rainy season (regardless of stratum) and it was windier in the canopy (regardless of season). The shifters preferentially colonized branches at moderate mean temperatures (23.0-24.3°C) and high mean relative humidities (91.3-100%). Shifters were considered season and stratum generalists because they were reared at both strata and were present in both seasons, but they may actually track a narrow microclimate window. Should the regional climate become warmer and drier, it would probably favor species currently restricted to the dry season or canopy stratum. © 2014 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Aronson M.F.J.,Rutgers University |
Handel S.N.,Rutgers University |
La Puma I.P.,University of Wisconsin - Madison |
Clemants S.E.,Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Urban Ecosystems | Year: 2015
The rapid urbanization of the world has significant ecological consequences that shape global biodiversity patterns. The plant communities now common in urban centers may represent new habitats with unique dynamics and the potential for highly modified ecological services. This study, joining extensive spatial and floristic data sets, examined current distribution patterns of non-native and native woody plant species in the New York metropolitan region, USA. We joined the New York Metropolitan Flora (NYMF) database of woody species with GIS data of urban land cover for 297 5 km by 5 km landscape blocks. We tested the relationship between urbanization and native and non-native species richness patterns, the extent of non-native species presence in the urban area, and the change in beta diversity across a gradient of urban land cover. We found that across the urban–rural gradient, native plant species richness decreased and non-native species richness increased with increasing urban land cover. Total richness does not change across the urban–rural gradient. Our analyses show that these patterns are highly correlated with urbanization, but vary across the New Jersey landscape. We also found an increase in beta diversity with urbanization; urban areas are not homogenized in plant species composition compared to rural areas. Here we show a species-rich flora dominated by non-native species which are differentiating the urban flora. These results can help guide appropriate conservation decisions for the maintenance of plant biodiversity in cities. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.
News Article | February 22, 2017
In New York, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is using the cloud to handle too much rain. When Superstorm Sandy dumped more than 7 inches of rain across the east coast in 2012, New York got hit hard. The city sustained up to $19 billion in damages and saw 5 billion gallons of sewage overflow. Those volumes worried the staff of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which had been planning a Water Garden with a pool that doubles as storage for rainwater but feared another overflow. As a result, the mixture of excrement, rainwater and sewage streaming into New York's waterway played a part in the city's first "smart garden." The garden relies on an automated system called OptiNimbus that uses an algorithm to track rainfall and adjusts its water levels accordingly. "We're discharging in advance of rain so we're not putting water through the sewer system," said Scott Simpson, the project manager for Opti, the Boston-based company that created OptiNimbus. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is just the latest public venue to embrace tech to run more efficiently or offer more services. From the California Academy of Science's Living Roof, which helps control the museum with weather stations, to the 49ers' high tech stadium and even whole cities like Amsterdam, many are embracing the idea of connecting their infrastructure to the internet or letting more bits of code handle their operations. In order to smarten up its system, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden worked with Opti and the designers at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates to dry their water worries. "The garden-wide Water Conservation Project -- taking place underground -- is every bit as remarkable, with a water management system that will be a model for other institutions and civic organizations," Scot Medbury, the garden's president, said in a statement. Opti created the OptiNimbus program in 2007 to handle water flow in a salt marsh using a web server on the valve's controls. Since then, it's expanded to connecting water systems to the cloud from Washington, DC to Oregon. For the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, OptiNimbus grabs data from the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecasts and pairs it with an algorithm to automatically determine if it should drain the pond based on how much rain it expects to come. It recalculates the weather forecast once a minute. With the valve connected online and managed through a web dashboard, staffers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden can control it from devices anywhere. That means if it's expected to rain three inches on any given day, the valves underneath the Water Garden could automatically release the same amount of water from its pond, keeping the water levels steady after the downpour. By doing this, the Water Garden doesn't overflow from the rainfall, preventing excess water from splashing toward the storm drain and combining with the sewage. OptiNimbus also talks with a water level sensor under the pond through a cellular connection for real-time data. The pond can rise up to three feet before the system decides water should be released prior to rainfall. The algorithm has already made the right call in cases where people would have trouble deciding. When New York expected flooding and heavy rain on January 23, conventional wisdom might have been to drain the pond in anticipation of the heavy influx of water expected. The day before the storm, the pond's water levels had been pretty low, and OptiNimbus opted not to drain. It was the right decision. "Sometimes we would watch a storm come in and we'd say, 'I think we should release water.' But the algorithm would say 'no, don't do it,'" said David Roman, a water resources engineer at Geosyntec, a consulting firm that worked on the garden. "It was really cool how often it was right." No water has been discharged from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Water Garden since the system went live. After enough situations, the algorithm is expected to learn enough to run entirely on its own. OptiNimbus reviews its systems every few days and analyzes its decisions, Simpson said. The first phase of the project was unveiled when the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opened the Water Garden to the public last September. It's expected to be completed by 2018, when the pond's water can be recirculated and used in its Japanese Garden pond. Completing the next phase would mean the garden could stop relying on 22 million gallons a year for the Japanese pond, dropping down to only 900,000 gallons annually. But it wouldn't be a garden without some floral life. Unlike Opti's other projects, which are basic storage systems or rainwater-harvesting tools, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden disguised its stormwater management as a lake surrounded with nature that adapts with the adjusting water levels. They're described as riparian, or "wet-feet" plants, including rhubarbs, perennials and the cardinal flower. These plants, which are used to being at the water's edge, thrive in changing water levels. "The goal of the garden is not to be a piece of infrastructure," Roman said. "It allowed us to create something that was unique and meet the engineering goals and without hitting people over the head with it." Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.
News Article | April 19, 2016
As winter recedes and we dig our slightly lighter clothes out from the back of our closets, our thoughts turn to vegetables and flowers—even if, for city dwellers, our growing spaces are limited to balconies, rooftops, fire escapes, sunny windowsills, and tiny backyards. But these meager spaces shouldn’t deter us; it’s surprisingly easy (and fun!) to grow all kinds of pretty and delicious plants even without a lush suburban yard. Maureen O’Brien, a community field manager at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, walked us through some of the many easy ways to plant a garden, even in a small space. The key limiting factor in what you can plant, says O’Brien, is sun. She divides the possibilities for small-space gardens into three categories: shady, part-sun, and sunny. Full sun is going to be unusual in an urban environment: trees, other buildings, fences, and all kinds of other obstacles are likely to block sunlight for at least part of the day. Partial sun, generally, is what we urbanites might think of as "extremely sunny," consisting of unblocked sun for around four to six hours per day. Anything under four hours is considered shady—if you’re looking at under two hours a day, you’ll be restricted to plants that need basically no sun at all. If your growing space has a mere few hours of sun per day—this might include something like a sunny window—you still have options. First, you’ll need a container. You might be surprised that those expensive glazed or terracotta pots, while beautiful, offer absolutely no advantage to growing plants besides looking nicer than, say, a plastic bucket. "Plastic quart takeout containers would work fine for herbs; or you can get an expensive glazed pot, and that works fine, too," says O’Brien. We love Home Depot’s five-gallon "Homer" bucket ($3.42 each) for big stuff, and its "Norcal" terracotta pots ($1.32 each) for little stuff. If you want something a bit more stylish, Crate & Barrel make really beautiful two-tone planters ($6.95-$49.95). There’s always Ikea, which typically has a solid selection of inexpensive planters, or you can buy plain boards ($7.98) and make them yourself: The key is to make sure the container has a hole in it, preferably around the sides, about an inch up from the bottom, to provide proper drainage. You’re a garden noob and may accidentally overwater, so drain holes let any excess water escape without rotting the roots. You could insert a little piece of screen or a bit of fabric to block soil from coming out of the bottom, but you’ll still want to place a container like this on a catch saucer in case excess water comes out. If you’re doing a lot of gardening, you could opt for some weed-blocker fabric, which is effective and cheap at scale ($18 for 50 yards). An old T-shirt, honestly, will work as well. (I’ve typically just done without and accepted that a little soil will come out of the bottom with excess water.) Be careful of window boxes that hang from a window ledge: for one thing, they can be dangerous if not properly attached, and for another, it’s trickier to plant a bunch of different plants in a single container. They can fight with each other for water or nutrients, and if they have different water needs, you’ll end up over- or underwatering something. If you do go for a window box, this one from WindowBox.com ($76.97) allows you to place individual pots in the window box holder. You’ll need soil, too; in most urban environments, soil can be polluted and generally rocky, sandy, and depleted of nutrients. Better to buy some potting soil. For beginners, Miracle Gro or other boosted-nutrient soils work just fine, but for intermediate gardeners, O’Brien recommends going organic. "When you use Miracle Gro or things like that, it's a big shock of nitrogen all at once, and it doesn't stay in the soil," she says. The nitrogen can soak into groundwater, which isn’t good, but it also has weird effects on the plant: O’Brien says she’s noticed that too much nitrogen can result in more succulent leaves, which can attract pests, as well as fewer fruits. Black Gold ($16.00 for four quarts) makes some good organic soil, or if you want to go the non-organic route, just snag some Miracle Gro. It’s available on Amazon ($7.49 for 1 cubic foot), but you’ll find more options if you go to a hardware store or a Home Depot or Lowe’s. (I've had good luck with Miracle Gro’s organic line, Nature’s Care. But don't overthink it. Just buy some potting soil.) You’ll want to grab some fertilizer, too. O’Brien recommends either a liquid fish emulsion or the granular version. Jobe’s is the go-to brand for organic fertilizers, and is very cheap ($8.24 for four pounds, easily enough for a couple of seasons). I’ve used a liquid fish-based fertilizer called "Neptune’s Harvest" for years, primarily because it has an amusing label. Exactly what sort of fertilizer you should use actually varies by plant, soil type, and pH levels, but for starting out, just follow the directions and err on the side of underfertilizing. So what can you grow in a difficult, shady spot? Edibles can be tricky, but a few herbs will grow happily without much sun. Mint is a great option, as are chives. They grow without much effort on your part and are hearty enough to withstand your mistakes. For non-edible options, O’Brien recommends "amaryllis or other bulbs, something where the energy’s already in the bulb." Amaryllis bulbs (various prices, but don’t spend more than about $12)—produce absolutely stunning gigantic pink-and-white flowers with minimal effort. Ferns and many other houseplants are also pretty shade tolerant. You can buy some of these online easily; Amazon sells a rubber tree ($18-ish) that’ll arrive already planted and will eventually grow to six feet or taller. There are also lots of plant starters available inexpensively on eBay. Beginners will want to go with seedlings instead of seeds. "Most seed packets have enough seeds to grow a 100-foot row of plants," says O’Brien, and you certainly don’t need that. And some plants are tricky to grow from seed: "Parsley takes, like, three weeks to germinate," she says. Don’t bother: Grab some seedlings from a local garden store or farmer's market. So you've got a little more sunshine than just a window—perhaps a deck or a south-facing window. Now you’ve got some options. First of all, go bigger: The size of your container will heavily affect the size of your final plant. Always go bigger than you think you need, and never overcrowd plants. Those gigantic five-gallon containers from Home Depot are good for, believe it or not, a single tomato plant or chili pepper plant. Don’t try to put in more; the plants will fight each other rather than grow tall and strong. For intermediate gardeners, you can make a pretty amazing drainage system out of those buckets. Fill them with gravel ($11.69 on Amazon) up to a couple inches from the bottom of the bucket, then lay a layer of fabric (weed blocker is good, but honestly cotton will work fine) over top of that, then fill up the bucket the rest of the way with soil. This strategy gives you a much more regulated drainage system and will help your soil resist mold and sitting water. Be careful if you’re planting multiple plants together; look at the tags to make sure they have the same requirements in terms of sunlight and water. Some plants naturally work together; "If it was an herb box, and you had parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro? Those are all kind of similar, they like a lot of water and would do best under full sun," says O’Brien. But others, like sage, thyme, and oregano, need less water and less sun, and wouldn’t do as well under the same conditions. Part-sun environments really open up what you can grow. Greens are incredibly easy, and for intermediate gardeners are a great way to play around with seeds. Lettuces, arugula, and chard are all super simple to grow, and germinate quickly. Beginners and intermediates alike can opt, finally, for some non-leaf edibles as well. Tomatoes are easy to grow, but be careful about what kind you choose: O’Brien recommends cherry or grape tomatoes, which give harvests throughout the summer and can handle less sunlight and less space a lot more readily than, say, a beefsteak. Chili peppers are also incredibly easy to grow. If you’re starting from seed, O’Brien recommends seeds from Renee’s Garden, which you can find for about $3.00 per packet. From seedlings? Just head to your farmers' market or hardware store. With part sun, you’ll also probably encounter pests. Even in an urban environment, there are plenty of bugs (and even squirrels and pigeons) that are just as eager as you are to chomp down on some fresh local produce. Addressing bugs doesn’t have to be complicated: A simple solution of a tablespoon or two of dish soap to a quart of water in a spray bottle and squirted onto leaves and stems will discourage most bugs. As for watering, again you can go as simple or as complicated as you want. The only real rule is to not over- or underwater, and to water directly into the soil where the stem emerges. Don’t ever water the leaves—they can get moldy and die—although certain plants can enjoy a nice misting of water on their leaves. (Again, refer to the seed packet or tag.) You've got rooftop access or a sunny backyard, so the sky’s the limit now—or, rather, your available space is the limit. A key mistake that many early gardeners make is picking the wrong kind of crop for a small space. Root vegetables are fun—"It’s really something to pull a carrot out of the ground," says O’Brien—but because you’re eating the root of the plant, you only get one harvest per year, which makes it not a good use of space. Ditto to gigantic plants like pumpkin, butternut squash, and watermelon. They’ll grow, but not all that well; these plants tend to want to cover the entire ground, and don’t play nice with other crops. And forget corn: Like carrots, it’s really fun, but the amount of space you need to grow even a meal’s worth of corn is probably more than you have in total. Instead, opt for smaller fruits and vegetables: tomatoes and chili peppers, sure, but also zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, and beans. Follow the directions on the package for these: Some, like cucumbers and beans, are climbers. Intermediate urban farmers can use an extremely old Native American technique for planting multiple items at once: You can stake or trellis your climbers, then grow ground-covering plants underneath them, like greens or herbs. You get double the crop in the same amount of space. You can get a cheapie wooden trellis for about $18.00, or you can go for beautiful elaborate wrought-iron trellises like this one ($387, which would be, frankly, insane), but they’ll work about the same. (Trellises are a great opportunity for a DIY project.) With full sun, you might want to investigate a raised planter instead of using containers. This is a bit more effort, but could be worth it: You give your plants a little more room to stretch their roots and grow bigger and stronger. O’Brien recommends the "square foot gardening" system, which blocks off a raised bed into individual sectors to ensure plants grow unimpeded by others in a raised bed. And you can buy the boxes or other setups for that system already put together, or you can opt for a simpler wooden one ($69.99). If you have a more elaborate raised bed garden, it’s worth it to figure out some kind of automatic watering system. That’ll allow you to leave for a day or a week and not worry about all your hard work going to waste, and will make sure your plants are happy. There are plenty of options, ranging from low-tech drip systems to smartphone-controlled Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets; this is a good guide to get you started. It's likely you've read our dead-simple advice above and thought one of two things: Doesn't everyone know this already? or Isn't there an Uber for plants? To your first thought I'd reply (in this scenario, I'm a telepath): You'd be surprised. I've helped several of my New York City-based friends learn to grow plants over the years, and sometimes even just the basics of watering and draining have been shockingly novel to them. Not everyone actually knows how trees grow in Brooklyn. As for automation, there is no shortage of off-the-shelf solutions to help you grow herbs and flowers. Some of them are even pretty good! But they're certainly not as inexpensive as a DIY solution, and many of them won't present you with the opportunity to learn the basics of gardening that will let you advance to trickier varieties of plants. Still, any method that gets you into the joys of having fresh greens at hand is a win. Gardening gadgets can be roughly split into two categories: Monitoring solutions that keep track of soil dryness or nutrient balance, and all-in-one growing systems that typically forgo soil for hydroponic, water-based gardening. Out of all of the monitoring gadgets—the Parrot Flower Power ($55); the Oso PlantLink ($45); the Spruce Irrigation system ($250+)—there are only a couple I'd actually recommend to the casual apartment gardener: the Chirp! water sensor from Adafruit ($16, with battery), which is a simple stick that sits in a pot and makes a little buzzing noise when things get too dry; or the Dr. Meter hydrometer ($16 for two), a clever little analog device that doesn't even need batteries to operate. Both are highly rated (and regarded) and do the only thing you really need, which is to give you a second opinion about when it's time to water. And since it's likely that you'll be watering all your plants at once, using one monitor in a single pot should be reminder enough that your plants need a little sip. (Bigger pots and bigger plants will go through water at different rates, but you can always just move the monitors to double-check what your finger in the soil tells you.) Another simple tool? A reminder in your favorite calendar or to-do app that reminds you every two to three days to give your plants a drink. If you want to skip the pots and soil entirely, there are several all-in-one hydroponics kits around these days, including the category pioneering AeroGrow/AeroGarden ($87-$112, depending on add-ons), now a division of MiracleGro. These units are about as basic as they come: A water tub at the bottom, some dangling, foam-filled seed pods in the middle, and some sort of grow light on top. I used the first Aerogrow almost a decade ago and found it to be pretty satisfying, albeit without the joy of playing with dirt. These sorts of systems come with their own drawbacks: you can't really grow root vegetables, and you'll have to tear them apart every month or two to clean out the insides to keep them from getting scummy with algae. That said, they couldn't be any easier to use, and even though the prepackaged seed pods are hilariously expensive compared to buying seeds in packets, I have ripped out the old root systems and planted new seeds without any issue. There are a few new contenders in the space, like the Click & Grow ($60) which has an ever-so-slightly classier design, or the Modern Sprout hydroponic system ($150+) which is clad in real wood and downright attractive. They all work in essentially the same way, so if you're just trying to get bunches of fresh herbs on your shelf—and the units with grow lights make it possible, say, even in non-windowed kitchens—you can't really make a bad choice. There are a couple of other categories of gardening gadgets that can be safely ignored for now: super "smart" planters, with Internet-Of-Things integration and other whiz-bang features, like the AliGro or the nthing Planty pot, which are intriguing but far too expensive and unproven for the starting gardener; and grow lights. If you absolutely feel that grow lights are a solution for your black thumb—and as an owner of a few in my apartment garden, I can assure you they are not—take a look at some of the newer, LED-based versions that use a little less electricity than incandescent models. Be ready for an apartment filled with purplish-blue light, though, and for neighbors who knock on your door asking about your stash. The real takeaway here is that gardening is incredibly easy, calming, and rewarding. A takeout container that used to hold wonton soup, plus some soil from Amazon and a nice little seedling from your farmers market, can produce herbs, fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Don’t overthink it: You’ll make mistakes, you’ll lose a few plants to inexperience, but growing plants is a way to liven up your living space and help you quiet—if it’s just for a few minutes a day—the insane bustle of city living.
News Article | November 1, 2016
Architects’ growing affinity for glassy buildings has given the world better views, more natural light, sexier skylines—and a lot of dead birds. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates about 750 million birds perish annually flying into glass façades, which can be hard to distinguish from open airspace. The problem is so bad in some places that skyscraper owners hire workers to remove expired birds from the bottoms of their buildings. Guy Maxwell, a partner at New York-based Ennead Architects, is on a mission to mitigate this fowl holocaust. A bird lover his entire life, he first became aware of architecture’s deadly impact on avifauna 15 years ago, shortly after the completion of his firm’s Rose Center for Earth and Space at NYC’s American Museum of Natural History. The enormous glass cube afforded unimpeded views of the spherical Hayden Planetarium within, but was a deadly invisible barrier to birds. Maxwell has been working to protect feathered species ever since. Working with him is an informal circle of anti-collision advocates that includes members of the American Bird Conservancy, New York City Audubon, New Jersey Audubon, and the Bird Safe Glass Foundation. (“It really takes a gang of merry pranksters to pull this off,” says Maxwell.) Together, they’ve made progress on bird-safe research, bird-safe building regulations, bird-safe glass, and bird-safety awareness, spurring changes that have already had a large, ahem, impact. Among their recent accomplishments is the American Bird Conservancy’s creation of two avian research facilities—one at the Powdermill Nature Reserve, about an hour outside of Pittsburgh, the other inside a modified shipping container at the Bronx Zoo. (The Bronx tunnel’s design was overseen, in part, by Maxwell and his colleagues at Ennead’s research-intensive division, Ennead Lab.) Spearheaded by American Bird Conservancy Bird Collisions Campaign Manager Christine Sheppard, these testing tunnels are the only ones of their kind in the US, and allow researchers to investigate which glass treatments and lighting conditions birds will fly toward or avoid. They’ve learned, for instance, that birds won’t try to fly through vertical line patterns that are less than four inches apart, and that line patterns tend to be more effective at preventing collisions than dotted ones. Using this knowledge, Maxwell, Sheppard, and their confederates have consulted with glass manufacturers like Viracon, Guardian, Bendheim, and Arnold Glas to help produce products like ceramic frit patterns and UV coatings—treatments that are visible to birds and can alert them to the presence of dangerous physical barriers. The group’s biggest policy achievement came in 2011, when it partnered with the US Green Building Council to launch a LEED pilot credit #55 for incorporating “bird collision deterrence” into new buildings. The goal: Make buildings as visible to birds as possible, through glass technologies, exterior building treatments like screens and louvers, and decreased night lighting levels. Maxwell says it has since become LEED’s most popular pilot credit. Other victories include legislation (initiated by Golden Gate Audubon) in San Francisco, Oakland, and other Bay Area cities establishing citywide bird safe building standards. Mandatory and voluntary ordinances have been passed in New York, Minnesota, and Toronto, as well. Much of the team’s research is embodied in Ennead’s Bridge for Laboratory Sciences at Vassar College. The bridge-like classroom-cum-laboratory is a case study in bird-safe architecture. Vertical metal sunscreens cover its long, curving façade. Its windows are coated in Arnold Glas’s Ornilux, a UV coating visible only to birds, and various hues of ceramic fritting (the range of colors ensures that the lines are visible to birds from a variety of species). The concept of bird safety is changing architecture, Maxwell says. Exceptional bird-friendly designs have been completed across the country, from the fritted glass windows of Weiss Manfredi Architects’ Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center, to AJC Architects’ Tracy Aviary Visitor Center in Salt Lake City, which is fronted by fractured metal screens that keep birds from flying into its windows. “There’s generally an awareness of this problem now,” says Maxwell. “You see architects considering this when before they had no idea it was even a problem.” The public is becoming more aware of the problem, too. New York City Audubon has even created an online portal, called D-Bird, where people can report building-related bird mortalities. Meanwhile, Maxwell and his band of bird advocates are seeking funding to ramp up their research and advocacy. They would like to build several more labs along the east coast, fight for more bird-safety legislation, and see bird-friendliness become an automatic consideration for architects. “I’m amazed that there are still many people who don’t realize the enormity of the problem,” Maxwell says.