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We wanted to find out how much
biodiversity exists at these two still
Newtown CreekGowanus Canal
Each of us live near polluted
waterways here in New York
City. We decided to take a
look at two of these
Once a busy cargo transportation hub,
the canal is now recognized as one of
the most polluted bodies of water in the
United States, and is labeled as a
Superfund site. The canal's history has
paralleled the decline of domestic
shipping via water. The canal is still used
for waterborne transportation of goods,
notably fuel oil, scrap metal and
Channelization made it one of the most
heavily used bodies of water in the Port
of New York and New Jersey and thus
one of the most polluted industrial sites
in the US, containing years of discarded
toxins, an estimated 30 million gallons of
spilled oil, including the Greenpoint oil
spill and raw sewage from New York
City’s sewer system.
Pollutants can have a
tremendous impact on the
ecosystem. In a river, for
example, the oxygen cycle will
stop and the polluted water will
affect the animals dependent on
biodiversity to decline. As cities
grow vital habitat is destroyed
or fragmented into patches not
big enough to support complex
POLLUTION AND THE CLEAN-UP
Both bodies of water are superfund sites (2010) but
Newtown Creek was ‘rehabbed’ in 2002 by NYS/NYC. In
addition, Newtown Creek is lees used by industry at this
point. Thus, Newtown Creek should be ‘cleaner’.
Do historic levels of pollution in New York City waterways
create an environment where there is less biodiversity in
these waterways, presently?
If a body of water
has been more
then it will have
within and around.
Date at which the
HOW WE COUNT
We took pictures of plants
and trees in the area for
If there were any visible
wildlife we tried to take a
picture or log them.
More than meets the eye.
Bacteria, algae and small
We got as close to the same
time of day each day we
PICTURES OF FLORA PICTURES OF FAUNA JARS OF WATER SCHEDULE
6 8 7
Gowanus Flora Gowanus Fauna Gowanus "Microbes" Unknown TOTAL SPECIES
BIODIVERSITY AT THE GOWANUS CANAL
Newtown Flora Newtown Fauna Newtown "Microbes" Unknown TOTAL
BIODIVERSITY AT NEWTOWN CREEK
Jamaica Bay Flora Jamaica Bay Fauna Jamaica Bay "Microbes" Unknown TOTAL SPECIES
BIODIVERSITY AT JAMAICA BAY WILDLIFE PRESERVE
The data shows that the
least polluted of the
waterways (control) had the
greatest biodiversity and the
most polluted had the least.
Thus, our hypothesis was
TIME OF YEAR
A long winter delays
animals from coming
out, making true
counting and ID
With limited time
comes limited results.
We could not survey
all areas of the
It is very possible we did
not count species because
we could not properly
differentiate them from
another species or could
not ID them at all.
With so many more
waterways it would be
worthwhile to evaluate
other bodies of water.
1 2 3 4
Focusing on the
amount of one
species to judge
SOME OF THE SPECIES WE OBSERVED
Spartina alterniflora Panicum virgatum Aster novi-belgii Baccharis halimifolia
Branta canadensis Colinus virginianus Pandion haliaetus Zenaida macroura
Bellinger, E., & Sigee, D. (2010). Freshwater algae identification and use as
bioindicators. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Cunetta, J., & Feuer, R. (1967). Design of the Newtown Creek Water Pollution
Control Project, the City of New York. New York: Dept. of Public Works.
Drake, S., & Kim, Y. (2011). Gowanus Canal Sponge ParkTM. Ecological
Flora of North America: North of Mexico. (1993). New York: Oxford University
Hamboussi, A. (2010). Newtown Creek: A photographic survey of New York's
industrial waterfront. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
Held, J. (n.d.). Progress on the Gowanus Canal.
Held, J. (1999, August 1). KAYAKING JAMAICA BAY New York City wildlife
refuge. New York State Conservationist.
Jackson, K. (2008). The almanac of New York City. New York: Columbia
Magee, D., & Ahles, H. (1999). Flora of the Northeast a manual of the vascular
flora of New England and adjacent New York. Amherst: University of
Matsen, B. (2005). Go wild in New York City. Washington, D.C.: National
O'connor, T. (2011). Commentary on Gowanus Canal Sponge ParkTM.
Ecological Restoration, 401-402.
Palmer, C., & Lewis, R. (1977). Algae and water pollution: An illustrated manual
on the identification, significance, and control of algae in water supplies and in
polluted water. Cincinnati: Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory,
Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ;.
Waldman, J. (2013). Heartbeats in the muck: The history, sea life, and
environment of New York Harbor (Rev. ed.). New York: Empire State Editions.
Special thanks to volunteers at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the NYC
Audubon for helping to ID some species.
Go ahead. Ask away.
Give us your best shot.
Where we hope you’ll find the answer to
any question you may have about