The comprehensive and recently released “State of the Nation’s Ecosystems” (USA) offers a mixed bag of news on environmental issues.
The good news is many forests have remained intact thans to conservation efforts and sustainable forestry management. Aside from providing habitat, forests play a major role in sequestering carbon dioxide. From 1995-2005, forests gained 150 million metric tons annually in above and below-ground plant materials. Forest area has been more or less stable since 1953
Unfortunately, the bad news greatly outweighs the good. Among the key findings in the report:
– A third of native plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.
– Over half of U.S. freshwater watersheds contain at least 10 non-native fish species
– Watershed exploitation has increased 46% between 1960 and 2000 in terms of water consumption
– Stream contamination deemed above safe levels for aquatic live is affecting 57 percent of farmland and 83 percent of urban and suburban areas
– Nitrate levels exceed federal drinking water benchmarks in 20 percent of farmland groundwater wells. The Mississippi, Columbia, and Susquehanna combine, spew about one million tons of nitrogen per year into coastal waters. The source of this nitrate pollution is mostly agricultural fertilizers.
Hi nitrogen levels promote the growth of algae, which can then suck up all the available oxygen in the water, creating what’s known as dead zones. Dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico have doubled in recent decades to 7900 square miles, which is an area larger than Connecticut or Massachusetts.
– One or more contaminants were detected in virtually all streams
– The area of urban and suburban land has tripled between 1945 and 2000
You can download the full H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment State of the Ecosystem report here