Local and Surrounding Ecologies and Environments of Virginia
Introduction to Physical Science, SCI110
December 13, 2012
The Virginia Ecologies and Environments
Ecology, as defined by Enger, Ross, & Tillery (2009), is “the branch of biology that studies the relationships between organisms and their environments”. Accordingly, the term environment is very broadly defined as “anything that affects an organism during its lifetime” (Enger, Ross, & Tillery, 2009). With these definitions in mind, it is easy to understand that organisms rely on their environments for sustainment and life. On the flip side, environments rely on organisms as well for survival. The factors that ...view middle of the document...
(see graph in Figure 1.) A temperate deciduous forest typically has around 30 to 40 inches of rainfall per year and cold weather for a portion of the year. The predominant plants are normally sizable trees that lose their leaves during the fall season. The typical animals found in this biome are skunks, porcupines, deer, frogs, opossums, owls, mosquitos, and beetles ((Enger, Ross, & Tillery, 2009).
Within the temperate deciduous biome, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation scientists have defined more refined categories within the state; identifying ten unique physiographic or biogeographic regions; the Allegheny Mountains, the Cumberland Mountains, the Northern Coastal Plain, the Northern Blue Ridge, the Northern Piedmont, the Outer Coastal Plain, the Ridge and Valley, the Southern Coastal Plain, the Southern Piedment, and the Southern Blue Ridge (2012). (see graph in Figure 2.) Although the general climate of Virginia is classified as humid subtropical, these regions help explain the dramatic variations in temperature, rain-fall, and length of growing seasons across the state. These variations also provide suitable habitat for a plethora of organisms and animals, from the high elevation mountains in the West to the coastal wetlands in the East. The climate and soil across the state provides ample sustenance for many plants; the plants—in turn—then provide sustenance for many animals, and finally, decomposed plants and animals provide further nutrients to the soil. This interdependent ecology continues, but with limitations and threats imposed by humans.
Human Impact on Local Ecosystems
A review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Virginia Ecological Services Strategic Plan 2010-2014 reveals the state’s highest priorities and geographical areas regarding the protection and restoration of native wildlife and habitat (2012). (see graph in Figure 3.) Specifically, these critical priorities involve the National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) system, conservation of lands and resources, landscape conservation, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, aquatic species and connecting people with nature. The report makes it clear that the identified high priority areas have been negatively impacted by humans, threatening all native species of plants and wildlife. More specifically, most of the listed causes, all of which are driven by humans, fall within the following categories: climate change, air pollution, agricultural runoff, livestock runoff, wastewater discharge, residential/commercial development, and deforestation. Conversely, nearly all of the selected high priority areas seem to share one common thread: they contain large and adversely impacted waterways and watersheds. Water, a substance that we often take for granted, plays a significant role for both plants and animals in any ecosystem; polluted water can destroy the delicate, interdependent balance that sustains it. Considering...