Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ohio in the Anthropocene

Some specialists say that we are in a true environmental crisis due to our lasting effects on Earth. The new label for human kind disrupting the atmosphere, as well as causing polluted oceans and the extinction of plant and animal species, is "Anthropocene". This new word would put an end to the earlier "Holocene" epoch that started after the ice age 11,700 years ago. Parts of this epoch include rise in river sedimentation and soil erosion due to the loss of agriculture and spread of industrialization through the last 250 years. The difference in the physical and chemical framework can be seen all around from the soil deposits and what exactly are in the fossils. Having many instances at different points in time at the local level effect the landscapes that interacting together. Igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks lie deep beneath the surface of Ohio, covered by thick layers of younger sedimentary rocks. These deeply buried rocks form the foundation on which ancient bodies of water deposited the layers of sedimentary rock that we see today on the surface. And the upper sedimentary layers provided the foundation on which Ohio’s soils of today developed.  The relatively recent upper region contains soil mixed with material dropped by the great glaciers. The glaciers moved the then Teays River and created the now Ohio River leaving material behind. 

Most recently our landscape is covered by agriculture (see land cover maps below).
Figure1. Ohio 1992 National Land Cover Data Sheet.

Figure 2. Ohio Land Cover.

This in part obviously affects nature itself but also rivers in Ohio. For example here today farm runoff from the fertilizer has affected and contaminated the Ohio River. 

Wave erosion acton on clay bluffs 1 of 3
Wave erosion acton on clay bluffs 2 of 3
Wave erosion acton on clay bluffs 3 of 3
Figure 3. Waves from Lake Erie and its impact on Ohio's coastal erosion.

A very large cause of the proponent of the erosion to, for example, the Ohio shoreline is caused by waves from Lake Erie. A study done by William W, Mather showed that in 1838 some of the coast from the last 42 years had lost over 130 feet. The shore is also easily swept away since the bank is so low. Waves weaken the base of a higher clay shoreline until the base of the bluff—the slope that rises from the shore to where the upper land flattens out—washes away or collapses (Ohio Department of Natural Resources). The bluff may seem stable but in reality a storm could come through at any time and cause it to collapse. This can cause the edge of someone’s backyard to taper inland even further than before. The bluff being made of soil, clay, shale, or bedrock does not matter because the bluff is so weak.


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