Essay on Ecosystem in the Mississippi
The ecosystems in the Mississippi River are very important to the biodiversity of a lot of different species and are very important for their existence and future survival. “The Mississippi River is a large winding river that covers more than 2320 miles of land mass as reported by the US Geological Survey.” (National Park Service, 2018) The river has a remarkable immense status and worthiness to plant, animal, and humans and is incomprehensible to the average person and must be protected and secured for future generations to come.
When Ecosystems Collide
When ecosystems collide, this is usually a sign of a serious problem. The Mississippi River has two distinct ecosystems. One of the land, vegetation, trees, forest, and wetlands that line the banks of the river. The other is that of vast aquatic wildlife, water lilies, aquatic plant life, fish, crawfish, alligators, river otter, beaver, and river crustacean, just to name a few. The ecosystems on the river have been working together in a give and take a relationship for thousands of years. The past damage that has been accomplished is threatening us today along the river. The present actions along with the past will only affect our futures ability to conduct change. Several organizations are attempting to conduct land buyouts, levee, and dam removals and challenge the Army Corps of Engineers on building plans along the Mississippi River. The American Rivers Project states that "In both 2014 and 2015, we helped secure full funding of $31 million for the Upper Mississippi River Restoration Program and in 2015 Congress closed the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock. Closure of the navigation lock could open the door to the restoration of an 8-mile stretch of historic big river rapids through downtown Minneapolis. Long-term restoration goals begin with increasing buyouts of properties in the floodplain, followed by levee setbacks that enable the river to occupy more of that floodplain. That allows silt to deposit in a more natural way and lets wetlands absorb polluted runoff. (American Rivers, 2017)
In Louisiana and currently along the Mississippi River and down to the delta, wetlands are being overexploited at an alarming rate. “Over the last 200 years, wetlands in the United States have been drained, dredged, filled, leveled and flooded for urban, agricultural, and residential development. Because of these activities, 22 states have lost 50% or more of their original wetlands.” (CWPPRA, 1993) Along the Mississippi River and all of its connecting tertiaries, you will find that its aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are being negatively influenced by natural climate changes and the results of human activities. These activities include dredging, construction of levee systems to prevent flooding of homes and businesses and building straight canals, dams and hydro plants.
Management, Cost & Benefits
The cost of losing wetlands and areas around the Mississippi River is staggering. The building of dikes and levees are causing extreme cost and also diverts water to other areas that did not already experience flooding or erosion due to the flow of water, therefore causing additional problems in the ecosystem. "If the current land loss rates continue unabated, by the year 2040 Louisiana will have lost more than one million acres of coastal wetlands, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. In addition, the Gulf of Mexico will continue to advance inland as much as 33 miles during this period, transforming previously productive wetlands into open water and leaving major towns and cities, such as New Orleans and Houma, exposed to open marine forces of the Gulf of Mexico. By the year 2040, the commercial and recreational fisheries harvest could decline by 30%, and nearly 50,000 jobs directly related to fishing, processing, and wholesaling activities would be at risk.” (CWPPRA, 1993). “According to the National Wildlife Federation and its partners, they are developing a working plan to:
- Expedite the design and implementation of large-scale initiatives that restore the Mississippi River’s natural capacity to build land.
- Ensure the safety of communities and businesses in the river delta by advocating for hurricane protection that includes coastal restoration and non-structural measure.
- Create sustained national and state funding and political will to move restoration from plan to action.
If these actions can be performed, then it is believed that the land masses can start to be stored and the ecosystems that are being affected can rejuvenate back into a productive and sustaining of both ecosystems. However, this is such a great undertaking of sorts and would require massive resources and reconstruction of some areas based on analytic studies and surveys.
Climate change as a Regional & Global Threat
Flooding is one of the things that the Mississippi is commonly known for. An increase in flooding is a direct sign of climate change. When flooding occurs large amounts of sediment are flushed along with chemicals, fertilizers, petroleum into the waterways. When levees and population construction, removal of dirt for building dams occur, then the natural barriers are removed that tend to hold back the flooding in a lot of other areas and force the water into unexpected areas. This removal affects wetland wildlife, plant and animal habitations.
Pollution can cause several problems in the aquatic ecosystem. “Nutrient pollution fuels the growth of harmful algal blooms which devastate aquatic ecosystems. Harmful Algal blooms sometimes create toxins that can kill fish and other animals. After being consumed by small fish and shellfish, these toxins move up the food chain and hurt larger animals like sea lions, turtles, dolphins, birds, manatees, and fish.” (EPA, 2017) Pollution also affects aquatic wildlife and plants in much the same way as large bodies of water.
Agriculture impacts as a result of climate change are being experienced in some patterns of bad weather. “For farmers, this means coping with both increased water in their fields and more frequent droughts. When farm fields flood, more polluted runoff contaminated with fertilizer, pesticides, and sediment washes into our streams and creeks. Higher temperatures and mild winters are predicted to increase the number of pests, increasing the number of chemicals farmers will need to use to fight them off. Increased use of chemicals and increased runoff doubles the negative impact on our water, increasing the need for stronger protections and proactive measures.” (EPA, 2017)
Ecosystem Changes. “The Mississippi River Basin is home to diverse ecosystems, all of which are dependent on a clean, healthy river. More frequent high-heat days, milder winters, and late-spring freezes are all symptoms of climate change experienced up and down the River. These changes alter which species can survive where. River communities are already seeing pests move into new areas and native species struggling to survive in their traditional zones. Local economies built around natural resources, such as forests, wildlife, and fisheries are already witnessing the negative impacts of climate change.” (EPA, 2017)
Prioritizing Conservation Efforts
Several species have been labeled as endangered or threatened that life in the Mississippi River. Prioritization of their well-being and survival is key to the future of the sustainment of their ecosystem. The Pallid Sturgeon is a fish that should be prioritized at the top of the list for saving. It has been found out by researchers that its aquatic habit was affected by the damming of rivers and levees that stop the water flow required for the laying of eggs. This activity has extremely hindered the fish’s ability to reproduce and is almost extinct. Second, the American Eagle would be another species that I previously listed that has moved from almost extinction to a stable species. However, if stabilization does not continue the species could revert back to the endangered species list.
Practical & Political Solutions
Currently, organizations are seeking ways to improve and sustain the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems on the Mississippi River. Practical and Political solutions are being analyzed and looked into for the effectual sustainment of each ecosystem that is affected and the results. Below is a list of possible Practical and Political solutions that need to be addressed at the earliest time possible.
Reduce Phosphorus and nitrogen that is causing excessive algal blooms that kill fish and other aquatic wildlife. Several species are endangered already, so an increase in the algal blooming of bad algae causes increased fish and wildlife death due to toxicity.
Improve Agricultural techniques to prevent fertilizers, chemicals, and pesticides from being released into the environment. Currently, chemicals are poisoning fish and killing plant life for future generations.
Need to restructure and reform pollution and stormwater permits that are controlled by local and federal permitting agencies and programs. This action would tighten control of what pollution is actually being released into the air and water.
Forming more prolific green based infrastructures and energy compliance by promoting the passing of laws that effect, chemical, industrial and plant handling of pollutants. The releasing of greenhouse gases, carbons and other ozone-depleting chemicals has a direct effect on the environment and ecosystem as a whole. If we can curve the use of these it may somehow at least slow down climate change a bit until more suitable solutions are forthcoming.
Support of Conservation and Biodiversity
The world in which we live has many challenges that must be faced now. Prolonging these ecosystem issues will only cause more stress and grief on the environment surrounding the Mississippi River. Political and practical solutions only play a part in the result. The communities, cultures, people, and government all play an important part in the answer to these conservation problems. Biodiversity and its many varied systems depend on us to help them secure a future in this world. Climate change needs our specific attention and addressing of it. Ignoring issues in the environment only get worse over time, if not addressed. The world is depending on human intervention to fix a lot of these issues instead of making them worse.