Archive for the ‘Ecology’ category

Our Disappearing Flora and Deer

August 1, 2011

The deleterious effect of too many deer on native vegetation has been known for some decades now and many studies have been done in New York. Unfortunately we are still unable to change policy and practices to reduce the deer herd to levels where our vegetation can recover.  Two recent articles have come out demonstrating how far we have to go to tackle this problem and save our flora from the ravages of overabundant deer.  One is a report by Tom Rawinski on his visit to see deer exclosures on Shelter Island.  The other is a pair of articles about the loss of the flora from deer herbivory in Letchworth State Park by Doug Bassett and Steph Spittal. – Steve Young

CLICK HERE for the Shelter Island story.

CLICK HERE for the Letchworth story.

CLICK HERE for a deer story from East Hampton.

Some rare plants must be fenced in at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island to protect them from the deer.


An Ode to Naturalists and Their Discoveries

March 3, 2011

A recent New York Times article by Richard Conniff entitled “How Species Save Our Lives” heaps praise on naturalists and their discovery of species that have provided the many health benefits that we enjoy today.  I like his comments, “Were it not for the work of naturalists, you and I would probably be dead.  Or if alive, we would be far likelier to be crippled, in pain, or otherwise incapacitated.” And “When the new wave of emerging diseases comes washing up on our doorsteps, we may find ourselves asking two questions:  Where are the naturalists to help us sort out the causes and cures?  And where are the species that might once have saved us?”

He presents a good, and much used, reason why we must continue to explore the natural world and save species.   I also like his suggestion #7: “Learn to identify 10 species of plants and animals in your own neighborhood, then 20, and onward.” NYFA can help with that! To read the entire article CLICK HERE. You can also see his blog about species at The Species Seekers.

Learning about species at


Dodder (Cuscuta pentagona) Exploits Odors to Find its Host

February 17, 2011

While browsing the website Parasite of the Day, I came across an interesting article about dodder and a reference about how they key on odors or chemical signals of some plants to find a host.  Here is a detailed entry about it in the Why Files Blog. This species is considered uncommon in New York and there are four other species that are endangered and threatened in the state. To find out more about two of them, you can go to the NY Natural Heritage Program Plant Conservation Guides.

The flowers of Cuscuta gronovii, a common species of dodder, in Schenectady. Photo Steve Young

Want to Know More about Pollinators? There’s a Website for That.

January 28, 2011

The Pollinator Partnership is a fascinating website that deals with the role of pollinators.

The Pollinator Partnership’s mission is to protect pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems, through conservation, education, and research. Signature initiatives include the NAPPC (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign), National Pollinator Week, and the Ecoregional Planting Guides.

You can also download the beautiful poster shown below.

What is Inside That Goldenrod Ball Gall?

January 21, 2011

Even though there is snow on the ground and freezing cold the fruits and old stalks of some of our herbaceous plants are still visible, especially the goldenrods. There is an online key available to help you identify the most common insects found in goldenrod gall balls.  It is produced at Bucknell University and you can access it HERE.

The parasitoid wasp of the gall fly.

Frazil Ice at Yosemite Video: Like the Hudson River at The Glen

January 18, 2011

Evelyn Greene sent a link to this video to show how frazil ice is formed in Yosemite. It is the same process that builds the ice we see on the ice meadows at The Glen on the Hudson River.  Evelyn has studied this phenomenon for years and how it affects the unique flora of the area.  You can visit the Hudson River north of Warrensburg up to North Creek to see our own version of this beautiful natural event.

Glimmer of Hope for Northeast Hemlocks

January 12, 2011

Northeast forest health managers are cautiously optimistic they might be along the path to protecting threatened Northeast hemlock populations. For the full news release CLICK HERE.

State Rare Plants Featured on Green Roof at SUNY ESF in Syracuse

January 5, 2011

When the new Gateway Building is finished that the campus of SUNY ESF it will feature a green roof containing New York’s largest living collection of state protected and rare plants, according to the Inside ESF magazine. – Steve Young

For more details and the full article CLICK HERE. Or see the entire issue HERE.

ESF Gateway Building when it is completed

State Rare Plants Featured on Green Roof at SUNY ESF

January 5, 2011

When the new Gateway Building is finished on the the campus of SUNY ESF it will feature a green roof containing New York’s largest living collection of state protected and rare plants, according to the alumni magazine.

For more details and the full article CLICK HERE.

ESF Gateway Building when finished

Yes, Old Pressed Plants Are Really Useful

December 30, 2010

CLICK HERE to see an article about how ecologists are using herbarium specimens to study global warming.  Brooklyn Botanic Garden is featured.