1980 – 2004
Restoration ecology, coined by John Aber and Willian Jordan, emerged as a distinct discipline in ecology in the 1980s as the scientific study of repairing disturbed ecosystems through human intervention or ecological restoration. As a complementary activity to conservation efforts, land managers, stewards and others have practiced ecological restoration for hundreds of years.

Native plant materials use in restoration activities has significantly increased over the last couple of decades with little consideration for the selection of appropriate genetic stocks. Recognizing the genetic consequences of using non-local genetic stock in ecological restoration projects and the overall dearth of native plant materials available to restorationists in New York City and the region, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation with the support from others established the Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC) at a 13-acre greenhouse and nursery facility on Staten Island. The GNPC set out to provide native plants propagated from seeds sourced from local populations in support of conservation and restoration in the city and the region.

The GNPC joins the international Millennium Seed Bank Project, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the national Seeds of Success program. Over the next four years, the GNPC staff along with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden work towards the goal of collecting 75 native plant species for long-term conservation from plant communities in decline in the New York City metropolitan area.

An active seed bank is established at the GNPC. With funding from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the GNPC converts its seed storage facility to meet international standards for mid-term seed storage. These conditions allow for maintaining viable seed for decades to meet land management needs. The addition of this new facility not only benefits NYC but also the region, as the GNPC offers to share its seed bank with regional public agencies and NGOs.

Recognizing the need for ecotypic bulk seed products, the GNPC initiates the Foundation Seed Program. Growing founder seed is the first step in the production of bulk seed. All field production starts with seed collected from wild populations. Starting with only four native warm-season grass species, foundation seed production has expanded, to date, to include 37 species of forbs, grasses and grass-like species, representing habitats ranging from woodland understories to grasslands. Eight seed mixes are currently under development for use in the restoration and management of New York City’s diverse natural habitats. In partnership with the Delaware and Raritan Greenway and with support for the USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant program, the GNPC is working to produce ecotypic bulk seed of 13 species constituting a generalized meadow seed mix expected to be available to restoration practitioners in 2013.

In June 2008, a memorandum of understanding signed by the Bureau of Land Management, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, New England Wild Flower Society, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, North Carolina Botanic Garden, and the Zoological Society of San Diego confirms Seeds of Success as a national native seed collection program.

The GNPC and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden complete the collection of seed of 75 native plant species. These collections are held in long-term conservation storage at the Millennium Seed Bank and the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Twenty-five scientists and plant conservationists, from across the Mid-Atlantic States, gather for a two day meeting to lay the ground work for the development of a regional seed bank. The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation with financial support from the US Botanic Garden and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation launches the Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank (MARSB). In its first collection season, MARSB focuses its efforts on the collection seed of early successional species and ash (Fraxinus) species threatened by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer.