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Ecosystems in New York City Parks

Plants, animals, trees, rocks, water — they're all connected!

An ecosystem is a community of living things that interact with each other and the physical space around them. As you explore the five broughs of New York City, you'll find many ecosystem types in the urban environment that might surprise you — from our grassy meadows and towering forests to our salt marshes and lakes.

Activities and Education

Let's take a closer look at the remarkable diversity of ecosystem types in our parks: 

a path winds through the trees in a forested park


Get ready to see the forest for more than the trees! Our forests are made up of layers of various species of trees and each layer is home to different animals and plants.

  • Forests 101 - Learn about the various layers of a forest, its wild residents, and how we care for woodlands while they care for us.
  • Exploring an Ecosystem ... Under a Log! - Even old fallen trees bring life to the forest — discover how with our Urban Park Rangers at Van Cortlandt Park!
lily ponds cover the pond surrounded by trees


A wetland is an area that is permanently or frequently flooded by water, like our ponds, swamps, and salt marshes. Wetlands are fun spots to explore unique plants and animals that love water or don't mind getting their feet wet!

  • Wetlands 101 - Explore the benefits of wetland areas in NYC and where to discover them.
  • Salt Marsh Exploration in Pelham Bay Park - Learn about this unique wetland and its tiny wildlife residents as you explore a salt marsh in the Bronx with the Urban Park Rangers.
  • Exploring Marine Park Salt Marsh - Check out the salt marsh in Brooklyn's largest park while discovering the plants and animals that love it there!
  • Bronx River Greenway - See how NYC's only freshwater river was transformed from a dumping ground into a thriving oasis.

Ready to Go Exploring?

Check out a cool ecosystem near you! Join our Urban Park Rangers on an upcoming hike or head out on our hiking trails! Some of our parklands, such as Ecology Park and the Five Boro Green Roof, are completely man-made and serve as a study of our city as it would be if left wild. Take a look:

yellow golden rod flowers blossom near a path through a forested area

Ecology Park

This special landscape in Brooklyn is a re-creation of the natural ecologies that are found in NYC. It's home to 14 examples of different native plant communities that represent habitats of our city if left untouched. Watch our virtual tour then stop by!

Watch a tour of Ecology Park

solar panels on a green roof

Five Boro Green Roof

We're growing fruits, veggies, herbs, and flowers on a roof on Randall's Island! Comprising 40 different examples of green roof design, this green roof serves as a model for sustainable design and a living example of climate action. Watch our virtual tour and schedule a visit!

Watch a tour of the Five Boro Green Roof

park rangers hike through the woods

Hiking with the Urban Park Rangers

Going on a hike with our expert park rangers is a great way to learn about NYC's diverse ecosystem types up close and in real-time!

Join an Urban Park Ranger Hiking Event

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