That human activity alters natural environments is difficult to deny. Global climate change is believed to be the main result of human activity. Like many other parts of the world, Delaware is extremely susceptible to the risks of environmental degradation. This paper provides an overview of the local and surrounding environments in Delaware. The principal distinctive features of the local ecology are provided. The influence of human factors and global warming on local ecosystems is discussed. The effects of global warming on this and other ecosystems are compared.
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Delaware is a state located on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. With unique ecology and diverse ecosystems, Delaware exemplifies a unique object of the ecological and environmental analysis. Water and sands create an inimitable picture of peace and solitude. They are also parts of a delicate ecosystem, which distinguishes Delaware from other parts of the world. Like many other ecosystems, Delaware is not immune from the risks and effects of global warming: rising sea levels present a serious threat to the surrounding ecologies and environments. For this reason, it is imperative that environmental organizations initiate a profound analysis of Delaware’s ecology, to reduce the scope of the global warming effects on Delaware’s environmental realities.
Describing the Local Ecologies and Environments of Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the East Coast of the North American continent and characterized by unique environments and ecosystems. Marine Ecology, beaches, dunes, and wetlands create a unique picture, which distinguishes Delaware from the rest of the United States. Delaware‘s ecosystems and environments include coastal zones, beaches, beach water ecosystems, forests, estuaries, and mineral resources. Nowhere else in the world can a unique combination of singing dunes, tidal waters, and fresh-salt water estuaries be found.
Delaware: Distinctive Features
Sand dunes are probably the most distinctive features of Delaware’s ecology and environments. “Though sand dunes may look simply like piles of sand strewn with weeds, they are, in fact, much more” (Syrett & Knox, 2010, p.2). In reality, beach dunes are essential elements of the local ecosystem – part of the state’s environment, which protects the land and bays behind the beach from high waters. The latter exemplifies another important feature of Delaware’s ecology: since 1979, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge alone has lost almost 12 percent of wetland territories because of high waters (Valencik, 2010).
Back to sands, Delaware is well-known for its “singing” dunes. What causes dunes to “sing” has long been a matter of scientific debate. Most probably, dune “singing” is a result of the thin layers of gases or air, which are condensed upon the dunes’ surface during evaporation (Syrett & Knox, 2010). Air and gases create a cushion, which vibrates considerably and produces a sound whenever sands are disturbed (Syrett & Knox, 2010). It is also possible that, due to high concentrations of magnesium and calcium bicarbonates in beach waters, beach sands are covered with salt, which, when friction is applied, produces a sound similar to that of a violin (Syrett & Knox, 2010).
Estuaries add uniqueness to Delaware’s environments. Estuaries are extremely important elements of Delaware’s coastal landscape (Frisk et al., 2011). They provide river-borne nutrients for fishes and invertebrates (Frisk et al., 2011). The Delaware Bay is one of the most significant estuarine systems on the Atlantic coast (Frisk et al., 2011). Huge marshes of cordgrass, freshwater tributaries, and brackish zones create a unique habitat for many species (Frisk et al., 2011). The Bay provides nutrients and protects many fish species, including striped bass and weakfish, from external influences and risks (Frisk et al., 2011). Unfortunately, the ecosystems and species diversity in Delaware is extremely vulnerable to the negative influences of human activity.
Human Activities Affecting Local Ecosystems
Power plants have long been a matter of ecological concern in Delaware. Since 1977, the waters of the Delaware Bay have been used to cool power plants (Frisk et al., 2011). Huge volumes of water taken from the Delaware Bay increase mortality among fish populations. Despite numerous efforts to restore the Delaware Bay’s ecosystem, their benefits have been but few. A 3% increase in marsh habitat is a trifle compared with the scope of damage caused to Delaware’s ecosystems by power plants (Frisk et al., 2011).
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Since Europeans first settled in Delaware, more than half of the original wetlands have been lost (O’Mara, 2010). During the last 15 years, nearly 2,500 acres of wetlands were destroyed (O’Mara, 2010). All those losses were mostly due to converting wetlands to other land uses (O’Mara, 2010). Apparently, decades will pass before the state of Delaware has its wetlands restored in its entirety.
Agricultural production is another problem. The Delaware Bay is located in the area where, because of agricultural runoff and encroachment, huge amounts of nitrogen are thrown into freshwaters (Despommier, 2002). Nitrogen reduces bacterial species’ productivity, breaking the delicate environmental balance and causing ecosystems’ degradation (Despommier, 2002). Climate change adds to the burden of environmental problems in Delaware, and its effects on the state are likely to be much more serious than in other parts of the world.
Global Warming and Local Ecosystems
The scope of the real and potential effects of global warming on Delaware cannot be overstated. Water resources suffer the dangerous effects of global warming. Changes in temperature, sea levels, and precipitation alter the state’s hydrology, reduce river flow and stream, reduce water supply, and lower the rates of aquifer recharge (the State of Delaware, 2011). As a result, drought conditions are becoming a norm during the hottest months (the State of Delaware, 2011). “More stormwater runoff will increase the risks that surface water supplies from lakes, rivers, ponds, and reservoirs could be contaminated by industrial pollutants” (the State of Delaware, 2011). Saltwater contamination is likely to reduce the amount of fresh water available to humans and animal species.
Like freshwaters, Delaware’s forests are not immune from the influence of climate change. Due to global warming, the fire season begins earlier and lasts longer than used to be just a decade ago (the State of Delaware, 2011). It is because of global warming that forest fires in Delaware are becoming bigger and hotter (the State of Delaware, 2011). Human-induced warming is too fast, affecting the most sensitive members of Delaware’s ecosystems, including trees with narrow habitat requirements (the State of Delaware, 2011). Yet, even trees and freshwaters are not as susceptible to global warming as Delaware’s coastal ecosystems. Rises in sea levels are likely to become the main factor of environmental damage in Delaware.
Global Warming: U.S. East Cost Is at the Highest Risk of Sea-Level Rise
The U.S. East Coast, including the state of Delaware, is at risk of rising sea levels. According to Fahrenthold (2009), the East Coast of the United States is more at risk of increased sea levels than any other densely populated part of the world! The world is projected to face an estimated 23 inches increase in sea levels by 2100 (Fahrenthold, 2009). In the meantime, the East Coast region of the United States is likely to see up to 25 inches more – a level that will submerge a beach chair by 2100 (Fahrenthold, 2009).
Whether or not Delaware manages to reduce the risks of global warming and its effects on ecosystems is difficult to predict. The land in the mid-Atlantic is sinking, which makes the whole situation even more complicated (Fahrenthold, 2009). Therefore, environmental organizations face a difficult task to identify the places and ecosystems most vulnerable to the risks of sea-level rise. It is imperative that environmental organizations initiate a profound analysis of Delaware’s ecology and changes in it, to reduce the scope of the global warming effects on Delaware’s environmental realities.
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the East Coast of the North American continent and characterized by unique environments and ecosystems. Sand dunes are the most distinctive features of Delaware’s ecology and environments. Estuaries add uniqueness to Delaware’s environments. Unfortunately, the ecosystems and species diversity in Delaware are extremely vulnerable to the negative influences of human activity. Climate change adds to the burden of environmental problems in Delaware. The East Coast of the United States is more at risk of increased sea levels than any other densely populated part of the world. Therefore, it is imperative that environmental organizations initiate a profound analysis of Delaware’s ecology and changes in it, to reduce the scope of the global warming effects on Delaware’s environmental realities.
Despommier, D. (2002). The human impact on freshwater ecosystems. Fathom. Web.
Fahrenthold, D.A. (2009). East Coast may feel rise in sea levels the most. The Washington Post. Web.
Frisk, M.G., Miller, T.J., Latour, R.J. & Martell, S.J.D. (2011). Assessing biomass gains from marsh restoration in Delaware Bay using Ecopath with Ecosim. Ecological Modelling, 222, 190-200.
O’Mara, C. (2010). Flooding and wetlands in Delaware. Outdoor Delaware, 2. State of Delaware. (2011). Climate change and Delaware. State of Delaware. Web.
Syrett, M. & Knox, L. (2010). Mysterious singing sands. Outdoor Delaware, 1-5.
Valencik, K. (2010). Sea level rise: Delaware’s rising tide. Outdoor Delaware, 1-8.