Ecology at Madison Square Park

Many people flock to Madison Square Park to experience the lush greenspace and respite from city life. Not only is it a backyard and playspace for our community, but a vital space for many of our local and migratory creaturesit is a haven for wildlife. 

Ecology at Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park Conservancy is pleased to announce its Ecology program to help support the wildlife that have called the Park home for generations.

Natural areas in the United States are quickly shrinking. Many no longer provide the same value of food and habitat they once had due to the establishment of invasive species and introduced plants. Not all plants are created equal in their ability to support wildlife, however plants and insects form the foundation for most food webs. Did you know that 90% of insects are specialists who are only able to consume specific plant hosts? While less insects may seem like a good thing, insects are a vital source of protein for larger wildlife, such as birds. For example, over 9,000 caterpillars are needed to bring a clutch of chickadees to maturity. 

As built areas continue to expand outward, we will need to consider wildlife as residents in our built communities. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2021–2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem RestorationThere has never been a more dire time for wildlife.


We Need Your Help
2021 will be the year of ecology action. With help from our staff, neighbors, and partners, we will conduct a year-long survey of wildlife that are already calling Madison Square Park home. We hope all visitors will consider helping in this endeavor by submitting their observations through apps, such as eBird and iNaturalist. Not only will this data be used to help Madison Square Park Conservancy plan for the future of the Park, it will also provide valuable data for scientists. If you’re unfamiliar with iNaturalist, we’ve put together a step-by-step user guide to help you navigate the platform. Starting next year, Madison Square Park will host an annual bioblitz in partnership with the City Nature ChallengeThis annual event will help us track changes in quantity of wildlife observed in our Park year over year.


The Tool Kit
Restoring natural connections in urban environments is no small feat. We will provide information and tools to our community to join us in creating a new metropolis that keeps wildlife top of mind. Access to greenspaces is at a premium in New York City. It is only when we join our spaces together that we will see real results. We hope that building owners, land managers, and neighbors will use this reference in their spaces.

Horticulture Planting Guide
Plants are the foundation to establishing food for any community. Moving forward, Madison Square Park Conservancy will use this guide for new plantings.

Operations Guide
How we manage our landscapes can have significant impacts on wildlife. From lawn to leaf management, we will share recommendations for our community.

Wildlife Guide
We will provide guides to help familiarize our community with the wildlife we hope to restore in Madison Square Park.


Why Wildlife?

Human beings are part of our ecosystem. We depend on other organisms to pollinate our crops, break down our wastes, and to provide food. Our development of land has depleted nature’s ability to not only provide those services to us, but to maintain themselves. Cities like New York City are considered to be wildlife sinksareas in which wildlife cannot reproduce in quantities to replace natural die off. Only by increasing food and shelter for keystone organisms can we make New York City into a source for wildlife where new generations can thrive. 

Over 40% of insect species worldwide are threatened with extinction. Most adversely affected are butterflies, moths, bees, ants, and wasps. Over 35% of the world food crops depend on insects, including these species for pollination.

Since 1970, the number of birds in the United States has decreased by 29%. In New York City, 492 species of birds have been observed, of those, 252 presently use the city for nesting sites, relying on high protein insects such as caterpillars to provide nutrition to fledgling birds. 

New York City is also part of the Atlantic Flyway. Every year, migratory birds travel up and down this route following food sources, heading to breeding grounds, or travelling to overwintering sites. Tired birds have relied on New York to provide food and shelter on this route for generations. Madison Square Park alone has played a vital source of food and shelter for 111 species to date.

Ecosystem degradation can be opportunistic for pests to thrive. Species such as mosquitos, can be kept in check where their natural predators such as birds and bats have enough winter food to increase their populations. 

Small changes can make big differences. Only if we start to make changes now, can we preserve wildlife for future generations.