in the Public Realm

The Wildlife Conservation Society's Mannahatta Project, under the direction of Eric Sanderson, Ph.D reconstructed how Manhattan looked in 1609 when Henry Hudson discovered the island. Elements being mapped include where the streams flowed and where each species of tree grew. The Lenni Lenape people who lived there called the island Mannahatta, or the "land of many hills."

Mannahatta and Manhattan may be more similar than most people might think. Both supported highly diverse and demanding populations and both had tightly linked and integrated networks that supported life, while allowing for change and flexibility. Yet, whereas Mannahatta had a long-term resilience, demonstrated in the long centuries before Hudson arrived, it is not so certain that Manhattan - in its current form - can sustain itself over coming decades. Looking back at the island of the past is a window into how we might approach the ecology of the future.

Mannahatta was home to more than people. Over 1001 plant and vertebrate animal species likely once lived here or in the surrounding estuarine waters, including wolves, black bears, mountain lions, beavers, whales and porpoises. Nearly all the bird species that once thrived on Mannahatta can still be seen in the city's parks today. The six maps shown illustrate the extent of the research done into the Ecology, Topography, and Lenape Land Use of 1609.

Data from the Mannahatta Project/Wildlife Conservation Society


Data from the Mannahatta Project/WCS; image by Markley Boyer