Alley Pond Park, Queens - "First Urban Forest" Wired with Smart Forest Technology
The U.S. Forest Service is investing in new technology and cyber
infrastructure within its Experimental Forests and Ranges (EFR) network.
The map illustrates a linked and integrated EFR cyber forest network
dubbed Smart Forests. Source: smartforests.org
Alley Pond Park in Queens, New York City, is the newest addition to the USDA Forest Service's Northern
Research Station's "Smart Forest network" smartforests.org. It is the "first urban forest" to be wired with
Smart Forest technology.
The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station (NRS) is to help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science. The Forest Service, under the U.S Department of Agriculture, has invested in webcams, wind vanes and humidity and temperature sensors, among other instruments, to gather data.
The experimental forests and research sites currently participating in the Smart Forest Network are:
The Alley Pond Park data collection, from air and soil temperature to precipitation to solar radiation and phenology, will be a collaboration of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, NYC Parks and Drexel University in Philadelphia.
"We have a wealth of information from wild land and rural forests," explained Lindsey Rustad, a research ecologist with the Forest Service's NRS, and member of the Smart Forest team. "With more than 80 percent of the nation's population living in urban areas, we need to have a greater understanding of our urban forests."
In addition to their recreational and aesthetic qualities, urban forests (natural and engineered) also help to buffer the impacts of flooding, and filter air and water pollutants.
The Smart Forest Network is dramatically speeding up shared information. Historically, forest data has been a laborious to gather, and often taking months to distribute. The new network will provide real-time access to environmental sensor data (air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed, solar radiation, soil temperature and moisture, stream flow and a webcam to monitor tree phenology) from established research sites to a single point of entry website (smartforests.org).
In 2010, the Drexel University Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Lab, directed by Associate Professor Franco Montalto, established the Alley Pond monitoring site with funding from the National Science Foundation. The goals, says Montalto, were to determine how much evaporation, transpiration, canopy interception and microclimatic regulation was occurring at Alley Pond, one of the city's last old growth forests and the second largest park in Queens. "[It's] a meter stick against which to gauge the success of our efforts to restore natural areas elsewhere,"
"With our partners, we are gathering new information and developing tools that enable communities to better manage the 138 million acres of urban forests," said Michael Rains, director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory.
The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land. Those lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres in the U.S.