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Tomes 1 Summer Tomes Professor Jones English 1020 4 April 2018 Hellbenders in Need of Help Many markets in Tennessee have profited off of the use of rivers and water systems. However, they use these systems in a way that harms and pollutes our ecosystems. Laws and regulations have been put in place making dumping in rivers and lakes allowable. Envir
  Tomes 1 Summer Tomes Professor Jones English 1020 4 April 2018 Hellbenders in Need of Help Many markets in Tennessee have profited off of the use of rivers and water systems. However, they use these systems in a way that harms and pollutes our ecosystems. Laws and regulations have been put in place making dumping in rivers and lakes allowable. Environmental changes are occurring in all aspects of the Tennessee Watershed and these environmental changes are detrimental to the aquatic life that once thrived in these ecosystems. With the rise of company dumping and other factors such as increased air pollution, the Tennessee Watershed are experiencing extreme changes in the water standards. The Hellbender is a prime example of one species that life depends on the changes of the community. These creatures have no other place to turn to; therefore, it is society’s responsibility to preserve the wildlife areas and set forth harsher regulations in order to prevent further damage and potential extinction. This seemingly  prehistoric animal is vital to the ecosystems they inhabit and without them the predator and prey levels would become unbalanced. The polluted waters make all aquatic life suffer. Furthermore, the Hellbender population is decreasing at an alarming rate due to the amount of unnecessary amount of pollution in the Tennessee Watershed. The Hellbender has many traits that allow it to live in freshwater systems. According to “The Hellbender,” by Tom R.  Johnson and Jeff Briggler, The Hellbender is a small species residing in Northern America (Johnson & Briggler). This creature can differ in size and can even reach lengths varying from 11 to 20 inches. They are often mistaken for rocks due to the fact that  Tomes 2 they are grayish brown with lighter colored speckles, but this too can vary among locations of the Hellbender. The Hellbender is a form of salamander; therefore, its body is lengthy yet its limbs are short so it can crawl among the bottom of the stream or river it occupies. Furthermore, the hellbender takes shelter underneath rocks and boulders and are often confused with a harmful aquatic creature when in fact they are quite gentle and have no intention of harming a human. Their diet consists of crawfish they devour when hiding under the rocks. It is the perfect hunting ground because they can easily capture their prey while going undetected. The Hellbender has an extremely unique trait. This species breaths through blood vessels that cover the surface of their skin. As the stream runs over their delicate skin, the dissolved oxygen is taken in and filtered through the body. Unlike other water inhabiting creatures, Hellbenders do in fact have lungs. They may be small in size but their role in the body serves to add buoyancy as they float. They may play a semi-important role, but generally the lungs are useless. In fact, “one individual survived after having its lungs surgically removed ” (Hellbender Salamander). Rather than swimming like ordinary aquatic life, the Hellbender crawls on the floor of the body of water to catch their pray of crawfish, insects, and rather small fish. Furthermore, the Hellbender is a nocturnal animal, meaning it lives out the majority of the day under rocks and hunts for its prey at night. Unfortunately, the Hellbender has many misconceptions regarding their nature such as the question of whether or not they are poisonous because of their prehistoric appearance. The Hellbender is far from poisonous. They actually help determine water quality in their ecosystem from the way they breathe. Hellbender’s are often times thought to be electric like an eel b ecause of their slender body and slimy appearance. This common misconception is far from the truth  because no environmentalist has ever discovered any form of electricity in a Hellbender regardless of the circumstance.  Tomes 3 Due to these common misconceptions, much of society fears these gentle animals and they are often killed or harmed due to the ignorance about the species. Bill Hopkins is a doctor who studies wildlife extensively. According to one of his videos of the Hellbender he states, “these guys are really important ecology and are very sensitive to  changes in water quality. So, study these animals to try to understand the overall health of aquatic ecosystems” (Dr. Hopkins). This species is a direct indicator of health of our water in the Tennessee watershed. Because of this, it is necessary we understand this species is dying off due to poor water conditions. Furthermore, The, “Extirpation of Hellbenders from streams may have ecological roles as  predators and prey throughout their life cycle (Humphries and Pauley 2005, Nickerson and Mays 1973, Smith 19 07)” (M. Worth Pugh , John D. Groves , Lori A. Williams , and Michael M. Gangloff). Therefore, the Hellbender serves a vital role as it contributes to the overall structure of their river or stream system. Water quality must improve in order to keep balance within our waterways. Research has been conducted by The University of Tennessee at Knoxville and according to their webpage, “ The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has estimated about 30 percent of the state's streams are of such poor water quality they cannot support a healthy population of fish and other aquatic wildlife” ( Water Quality Facts). The article goes further and reports these streams are unsafe for people to enter and unfit for fishing trips (Water Quality Facts). Not only is our environment suffering from these heavy amounts of pollution, but society as a whole experiences these hardships as well. The streams earlier generations used to enjoy are now unsafe for the public to enjoy. There are many contributors to the poor levels in the Tennessee Watershed; however, “h ere in middle Tennessee one of the main forms of pollution that hurts biodiversity is nutrient storm water runoff from  Tomes 4 farms and lands bordering waterways, discharge from wastewater treatment plants and sewer overflows affecting water quality ” (Threats to Biodiversity). The Harpeth Conservancy Organization conducts research dealing with factors pertaining the health of ecosystems, water health, and reasoning’s  other than pollution that contribute to the level of biodiversity. Because of the many factors that contribute to the stance of water systems, Hellbenders feel the effects  just as other species would. The only difference is Hellbenders take in oxygen from skin therefore, they feel the effects of the poor water quality greater than other species. Another major problem is the general public have built dams. Although dams benefit the population and allow humans to grow and use the land more efficiently, these blockades cause devastating outcomes in our watersheds. For example, “some of the main harmful impacts of dams are the blocking of sediment flow, increased water  pollution, increased flooding, and the hampering of several species of fish migration that contribute to the loss of several freshwater fish species” (Threats to Biodiversity).  Not only is water not being filtered properly, but also fish and other aquatic species are unable to reproduce as their instinct persists. The dams may help the human society but at the cost of unhealthy wildlife. Additionally, soil erosion is also a major cause of polluted waterways. Due to cattle over grazing the land, “the loss of riparian zones along the river to provide a buffer to keep  pollutants and excess soil out of the river and habitat for wildlife, and the over use of pesticides and herbicides ” (Threats to Biodiversity). A riparian zone is basically the area b etween the land and a body of water. Without these, pollutants have easy access to rivers and streams therefore causing unnatural amounts of chemicals in the water. The eroding of these is an extreme issue due to the fact that they also lower the temperature they surround. The animals that inhabit these ecosystems encounter many problems trying to survive when there are higher temperatures and
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