The Mannahatta Project: What Was New York Like Before It Was A City?

…from the Wildlife Conservation Society

“Ever wondered what New York like before it was a city? Welcome to Mannahatta, 1609.

The Digital Elevation Model, or DEM, of 1609 Mannahatta was a vital achievement in the process of recreating Mannahatta. It took 5 years of map research, fieldwork, and GIS analysis to complete. © WCS

The result of five years of historical map research, fieldwork, and GIS analysis, the Digital Elevation Model, or DEM, of 1609 was a vital step in the process of recreating Mannahatta. ©WCS

“Now, after nearly a decade of research, the Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has un-covered the original ecology of Manhattan. That’s right, the center of one of the world’s largest and most built-up cities was once a natural landscape of hills, valleys, forests, fields, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, beaches, springs, ponds and streams, supporting a rich and abundant community of wildlife and sustaining people for perhaps 5000 years before Europeans arrived on the scene in 1609.  It turns out that the concrete jungle of New York City was once a vast deciduous forest, home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders, with clear, clean waters jumping with fish.  In fact, with over 55 different ecological communities, Mannahatta’s biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains!

“Today Manhattan is still habitat, but now that habitat is mainly given over to people.  Understanding the ecology of Mannahatta helps us bring into focus the ecology of Manhattan today and plan for the urban ecosystem of the future, while at the same time enabling us to reflect upon the value of the wild “Mannahattas” that still exist in the world.”