Harbor District Today

Contemporary Geology and Hydrology

Known today for its buildings and grid of streets, the landscape in this neighborhood has a much different character today. The carpet of habitat that once covered the neighborhood has now turned into patches isolated from one another in a sea of developed land. Agriculture practices, housing, roads, railroads, the rerouting of the Mohawk River and the construction of the Erie Canal caused great changes in the area's hydrology as well, resulting in pollution, erosion, reduced groundwater recharge, soil impermeability, heat island effect and inadequate wastewater and storm water management practices. The Mohawk River now runs in a straight path through the center of the neighborhood and sections of Reel's Creek and Ballou Creek are now buried, further adding to these detrimental effects.

Contemporary Flora

Destroyed by deforestation, development, landscaping practices and pollution, most of the area's native vegetation has been replaced by non-native and invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed, Burning Bush and Norway Maple. Although residential gardens in this neighborhood support biodiversity, floristic conditions as a whole are not conducive to a healthy ecology because most of the species are not native and are therefore less successful at supporting the insect populations on which most wildlife rely on to survive. The majority of the neighborhood's street trees are introduced species and the remnant patches of native vegetation that exist provide little core habitat, something many animal species and the ecosystem as a whole need to flourish. Utica Marsh, however, contains a preponderance of rich, native vegetation. It is a mixture of open water marsh, dead deciduous swamp, emergent vegetation, shrub wetland, wet meadow, deciduous wetland and upland vegetation.

Contemporary Fauna

Many of the wildlife species that formerly lived in the area, such as beavers, minks, muskrats, weasels, foxes, coyotes, cottontail rabbits, woodchucks, skunks, opossums, whitetail deer, raccoons, toads, frogs, snakes and turtles and 178 bird species, fortunately still remain due to the presence of Utica Marsh. The developed section of the neighborhood comprises a much smaller list and includes ones common to urban areas such as crows, starlings, house sparrows, squirrels and pigeons. Unfortunately, the fragmented landscape in this section of the neighborhood provides patches of habitat too small to support many species since animals require particular ranges and the roads, fences and Erie Canal prevent their movement. Of those habitat patches that remain, few are suitable for animals' survival. Altered hydrological patterns have influenced the creation of poor soils, which results in vegetation inadequate for the nutritional, shelter, resting and nesting requirements of most species of wildlife that used to occupy the area. The low incidence of other features typical of healthy habitats, such as rock piles and snags, is another contributing factor. Environmental degradation due to noise, light and air pollution has also inhibited wildlife's capacity for living and reproduction. Noise pollution interferes with an animal's ability to locate resources, find mates, establish territories and escape predators. Environmental light pollution causes changes in reproduction, communication and foraging behavior by way of disorientation and attraction to or repulsion by glare and lighted objects. Air toxins lead to diseases, abnormal functioning of organs and death in wildlife. Animals have four options when their habitat is disjointed, damaged or destroyed: (1) thrive in the human-dominated conditions, (2) live within several habitable areas at once, (3) travel to other habitat patches in order to take advantage of the resources they provide or (4) perish. Unfortunately for the developed areas within this neighborhood, since 1491 the last option has been a common one.