Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Southern Appalachia, Biodiversity Hotspot

Warm weather and rain have conspired to bring out the blooms. With the annual re-awakening, it becomes evident that the Southern Appalachian region is not like other places. The climate and topography between the spine of the Unakas and the mesas and canyons of the Cumberland Plateau are home to more different species of life than virtually any other spot in the temperate zone. These same conditions of climate, soils and topography also help to make this region a wonderful place to garden.

Blueside darter (Copyright 2015 by Conservation Fisheries)
On Monday I attended the annual meeting of the board of directors of Conservation Fisheries, of which I am a charter member. Conservation Fisheries has been raising rare and endangered native fish species for more than 20 years. The fish produced in the Knoxville-based hatchery have been used to restore species to areas from which they have been extirpated. J.R. Shute and Pat Rakes, the co-directors of Conservation Fisheries, have accumulated more data regarding the reproduction and early life history of southern Appalachian stream fishes than perhaps any other group or institution.

Conservation Fisheries deserves the support of everyone who cares about the biodiversity of our beautiful region. Visit their web site to make a donation and to learn more about their important work.

Tennessee has more species of native fishes than any other state except Georgia. In numerous other categories, including salamanders, plants, trees, mosses and various kinds of insects, this region is home to enormous biodiversity, much of it as yet undiscovered and undescribed by scientists.

Despite this, our state has a history of permitting industry to run roughshod through our beautiful woods, poisoning streams and rivers, and contributing to the poverty that has lain over this region like a cloud for more than a century. If you want to understand how absolute the power of money used to be in east Tennessee, I suggest you visit Ducktown. At one time the center of a thriving copper mining industry, Ducktown today preserves as a "living" museum, a portion of the land that was turned into a lunar landscape by the acid-rich effluvium from the smelters. The land was so raveaged that not a blade of grass would grow, and the rocks in some area streams still bear streaks of blue-green copper minerals dumped into the water.

I urge all concerned Tennesseans to find out where their state legislators stand on protecting our precious biological heritage.

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