Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Please Don't Feed the Algae

Global warming isn't the primary cause of all environmental problems, but it still plays a hand in most.  Take the Upper Middle River outside of Baltimore where, last month, 200,000 fish were suffocated by an algae bloom that led to anaerobic conditions in the water.  The algae bloomed from a combination of warm temperature and an over-abundance of nutrients in the water.  When the weather cooled, the algae died, decaying through a chain of microbial feeding frenzies that consumed dissolved oxygen and released toxins damaging fishes' gills.  Dead fish compounded the effect of dead algae. Not to say that we will suffocate from all of the die-offs occurring around us (though the oxygen concentration in our air is falling), but this is an example of how the fate of a lesser ecosystem occupant can dramatically affect higher species.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has not identified any single pollution source as the trigger for the algae bloom, but leaves open the possibility that an accumulation of nutrients (read "fertilizer") could be to blame. It will be poetic justice when, in the coming decades, the rising seas reclaim the land surrounding this Chesapeake Bay tributary away from homeowners who prized their lawns while poisoning more sentient creatures.

Yet, if cumulative small trespasses can lead to ecological disasters, abundantly small acts of stewardship may also mitigate others.  If you have forested land anywhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Forests for the Bay is a resource treasure trove that can help you care for it.  It takes only a 1 minute free sign up process to open up the treasure house.

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