Sunday, June 13, 2010

Volunteers Take Annual Tally Of Brooklyn's Biodiversity by: Jeanine Ramirez -

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Dozens began scouring the grasslands, beaches and marshlands of Jamaica Bay on Friday to help increase understanding of some of Brooklyn's natural resources. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

Families and students, scientists and park rangers walked Plumb Beach on a treasure hunt Friday, to look for natural treasures of wildlife. It was the beginning of a 24-hour "BioBlitz" at Brooklyn's Gateway National Recreation Area, where different species in and around Jamaica Bay were found and identified.

The National Park Service joined with Brooklyn College to record all the species of living organisms, from sea life and insects to reptiles and grasses.

Park rangers say the biodiversity here is greater than most New Yorkers may realize. There are 331 species of birds alone recorded in Jamaica Bay.

"That 331 is more bird species than you would find in some our great national parks -- Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. If you combine the bird species in those parks, it wouldn't equal 331," said Barry Sullivan of the National Park Service. "So right here in New York City, we have that kind of biodiversity."

It was the second BioBlitz at Gateway over the last two years. Organizers said documenting what lives there helps experts learn if there are any new species or endangered ones.

Residents said getting involved helped them become more engaged in their national parks and their environment.

"I'm here to learn. I'm not an authority on anything on the biodiversity here," said one volunteer.

"Just to know what's around me, what's in Brooklyn, what's here," said another.

"To take stock of all the biodiversity that exists right here in Brooklyn, right in our backyard," said a third.

The BioBlitz kicked off Friday afternoon and was scheduled to run nonstop through Saturday. Experts said the overnight hours are necessary to get a more comprehensive look.

"Some animals are more active at night than daytime. Some of the insects for instance, moths. Bats, you document them at night. Mammals are more active at night," said Brooklyn College professor Rebecca Boger.

The National Parks Service said once it records all of its findings, it will post the data on its website.