Threats to East Tennessee environment

Salamanders

The Great Smoky Mountains are the salamander capital of the world, and these creatures have the potential to be key indicators for local climate change.

salamander
A salamander breathes through its skin, so handing the timid creature requires moist surfaces to prevent damaging its respiratory organs.

Some species of salamanders live in Tennessee and cannot be found anywhere else in the world, like the cave salamander. These amphibians can directly indicate the climate changes within Tennessee’s ecosystem because of their ability to breathe through their skin and their sensitivity to changes in heat and moisture.

Salamanders are amphibians, a classification of cold-blooded animals that include frogs and toads.  They resemble lizards, but have rubbery skins, rather than the scales of their twins. Each of the more than 500 species are unique patterns, colors, sizes and reproductive processes. While all salamanders require a moist environment, some rather take shelter under rocks than in rivers.

Environmental changes threaten the salamanders habitats because there is a narrow range of conditions in which salamanders are viable: altitudes above 3000 feet elevation, cool temperature, and high humidity. GSMNP fits all the qualifications, but the area with this exact habitat is narrowing as the atmosphere warms, starting at the bases of the mountains and hiking upwards.

Rivers

The state of Tennessee is battling against the river that shares its name.

The Tennessee River has been found to have such poor quality that it’s unable to fulfill its intended use.

Human pollutions from trash and toxins without proper cleanup and regulations have infiltrated the water and transformed Tennessee’s waterfront attractions into eyesores.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates “ten percent of Tennessee’s rivers are of such poor quality that they do not meet their designated uses, and 110 miles are actually posted to warn against human contact.”

The uncleanliness of the water depletes tourism and outdoor recreation, harms the natural aquatic ecosystem, diminishes value of properties situated on the water and contributes to dirty streams and creeks branching from the river.

IMG_3140-01
Perched on outlet of Third Creek, a great blue heron scans green, murky waters for a fish snack.

Tennessee has rich aquatic diversity, with some of the most variety of freshwater fish species in the country. However,  water run-off from residential, agricultural, and commercial  sites pollute the watershed, which refers to all water that flows downhill and empties rivers, lakes or streams.

 

 

 

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