Archive for » February, 2012 «

Saturday, February 25th, 2012 | Author:

We had some good news in class this week: The Everglades are recovering! However, the nearby Chesapeake Bay is still struggling to recover from the loss of its local wetlands.  These wetlands aren’t as big or diverse as the Everglades, but they’re still an important resource to Maryland and Virginia alike.  Like the Everglades, they provide homes to many birds and fish, as well as the famous Chesapeake Bay crab and oyster.  They give local fishermen jobs and nature lovers a variety of animals and plants to enjoy.  They filter out chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides used in suburban lawns and rural farmland.  However, all these benefits are at risk due to one pesky invasive species that does a lot of damage: phragmites, also known as common reed.

Common reed Phragmites have  been in the Chesapeake Bay area since the 18th century, when European ships accidentally dropped phragmite seeds along the Atlantic coast.  However, phragmites really got a population boost in the 20th century.  When parts of the Chesapeake Bay marshlands were drained for construction purposes, runoff and chemicals from the newly built roads, houses and businesses killed off much of the native wildlife.  That gave phragmites space to spread out.  Nutrients from fertilizer helped phragmites crowd out the native plants (and the same fertilizer helped algae to spread, which helped keep the competing native plant population down).  That meant that the native birds didn’t have any grasses to eat, and the native fish didn’t have a places to lay their eggs, so they left.  To sum up: one plant nearly wiped out an entire ecosystem.

There’s some good news, however.  Environmentalists now know about the risk that phragmites pose, and are taking steps to get rid of the plants.  Organizations like Weed Warriors are planting more native species in the area.  Environmentalists who want to manage phragmites usually apply herbicides as carefully as possible (so they don’t kill the native plants), or burn it after it flowers.  There’s no known way to get rid of it biologically, but there’s hope that phragmites will disappear for once and for all.

– Katie Diemer, <>

Amsel, Sheri. “Wetlands of the World.” The Chesapeake Bay. Exploring Nature Educational Resource. © 2005
       – 2012. February 25, 2012. <>
“PCA Alien Plant Working Group – Common Reed (Phragmites Australis)”, n.d.                                          /alien/fact/phau1.htm.
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Saturday, February 11th, 2012 | Author:

Before the earthquake in 2010, I had only seen old pictures of Haiti from Toussaint l’Ouverture’s slave rebellion from my French textbooks.  The land in the background of the pictures was lush and full of palm , bushes and tall, tropical trees.

So I always imagined Haiti as some sort of beautiful, jungle-covered island.  You can imagine my surprise when I saw pictures of Haiti that looked like this:

This is an aerial photograph of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  The Dominican Republic is full of those lush tropical trees I always imagined, while Haiti’s side is extremely dry and bare.  Only a few shrubs and bushes are left on the Haitian side of the border, and 1% of the trees are left.  How could so many trees be destroyed?

We learned in class that many Haitians chop down the trees to use as firewood, or turn it into charcoal to sell at the local market.  For a day or so, they can have some fuel, hot food and money for their families.  However, when they run out of food and charcoal, they have little choice but to cut down more trees for more firewood and charcoal to sell.  Our class discovered that the large amount of deforestation from a growing population causes the roads to collapse from looser soil, since there are less trees to hold the soil together with their roots.

This made me wonder why Haitians if could get jobs that would provide a steadier income without destroying the remaining forest.  After all, Haiti used to have thriving farms and sugar plantations.  Yet the presence of these farms and plantations may have made the problem of deforestation even worse.  They had to clear the forests for these plantations and farms, and the lack of trees caused the soil to become loose and erode away.  The Haitians can’t hunt for food, because there are few animals left to live among the trees.  They could fish, but the soil from the landslides and eroded landscape has polluted their streams, along with human waste from the cities.  Haiti can’t attract foreign businesses the citizens can work for, because Haitians citizens have a hard enough time finding clean water, food and shelter for themselves, not to mention dealing with the corrupt government.

How can Haitians save their lost forest without losing their daily food and fuel?  They could plant trees, but where would they get the seeds?  Can they do this despite the questionable policies of the government?  Are the Haitians doomed to relive the cycle of poverty and resource loss over and over again?

– Katie D., 11 AM class


“Deforestation Won’t Stop Killing Haitians.”  Ekspoze! -The Final Word, n.d. JPG.
  Dubois, Laurent, and John D. Garrigus.  Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A Brief History with Documents. First ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2006.  Illustration.



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