Martha's Vineyard Rod & Gun Club
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Chuck Redington's Environmental Notes
Reprinted from "Shots and Casts"

E nvironmental Notes is based upon my experience as a professor of biology and environmental science, an environmental consultant, and explorer in Africa and the Amazon. Since our club is beautifully located on a salt pond and salt marsh, I will begin with a potpourri on wetlands—"to be continued"—for as long as I'm not "yanked" by Pres. Bob De Lisle, and others. (Editors Note: I have asked Chuck, taking advantage of his expertise, to write a piece each month as an informative vehicle to our newsletter. We Chuck Redington are both hoping that any of our members who have question about environmental concerns or issues at their home or on the Vineyard will send their questions in to our e-mail at mvrodandgunclub@yahoo.com or Chuck's e-mail address cbredington@spa.com. Let's keep Chuck moving onward! And, thank you, Chuck, for taking on the column.)

Some of the material will be from my field guide series—"Redington Field Guides to Biological Interactions"—there are two in the series, so I may be plagiarizing myself and a contributor of two.

Wetlands may be among the most endangered of all biological communities in America and nowhere more than in areas east of the Mississippi River where many fresh and saltwater wetlands have been altered, piped, paved over, or otherwise rendered unfunctional. To save what is left is an important endeavor for the citizens and to be able to do this, we must be able to understand some of the complex interactions that occur in those plants and animals that live there. Just what is a wetland? There are no specifically agreed upon definitions. However, most professionals working in this area would generally agree that wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor in determining the kinds of soils, plants, and animals to be found in them. The Army Corps of Engineers' criteria is one that many New England states follow: wetland vegetation types, hydrology, wetland soil types, and topography (low places).

How much of the US is wetland? It is quite difficult to estimate how many acres of wetlands exist in the lower 48 states. The primary reason for this is that the definition of what a wetland is falls subject to a variety of interpretations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned the National Wetland Trends Study (NWTS) and their results estimated that there were approximately 108 million acres of wetlands in the lower U.S. in 1954, only 1/2 of what has been estimated to be present in the 1600's in pre-settlement times. The study further showed that by 1974, the 1954 levels had decreased to 98 million acres, showing a loss of nearly 10 million acres in just 20 years! Current estimates indicate that since 1974, the overall rate of wetland loss approaches 5% a year—an area equal to nearly half the size of Rhode Island. These losses are critical when we consider the functional values of wetlands including flood control, public and private water supply, pollution attenuation, fisheries and shellfish, ground water recharge, storm damage prevention, and wildlife habitat.

Other topics down the line will include the structure, function, and interactions of some of the MV Rod and Gun Club wetlands, the plants and animals of our wetlands and their interactions with other plants and animals, human/economic uses of wetland plants and animals, travels in the Amazon and her tributaries, and ecology of plants and animals in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Special Thoughts

Some of you may recall that I spend time in the Amazon. I helped establish a YMCA in Santarem, Para, and Brazil, right on the Amazon River. We also have 400 acres on the Rio Tapajos in Alter do Chao at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajos. This is a different kind of YMCA - one that is involved in sustaining the Amazon Basin and its indigenous populations. We are trying to establish a cultural preservation center, medicinal flora herbarium, manatee preservation and wildlife rehabilitation center, health care facility, tropical ecology course, and sustainable activities center among other things. It is a big project and has great potential for people to visit and learn about the largest wetlands on earth and where over 20% of the freshwater on earth is stored. I will have much to share with you on this over the year to come. At this very moment my colleague Dr. Joseph Berger, a cellular physiologist and professor of biology with me at Springfield College, is landing in Santarem to visit the field station I am trying to establish. His goal is to meet with a shaman or other tribal representative or indigenous people to learn of the various uses of some of the plants in their medicine and healing. He wants to work with our students in research to isolate active ingredients in such plants and study their physiological effects on cells. This is a very exciting place and quite remote in some ways. But we need to share intellectually with our neighbors to the south in as many areas as we can. I will keep you posted on some of the things we are doing in the great outdoor laboratory - the Amazon Basin that covers nearly 43% of Brazil. Did you know that the Amazon River is the largest and now thought to be the longest river in the world with the largest fish diversity of any--peacock bass anyone? I have been awarded a sabbatical leave for next fall and intend to return to the Amazon for a while to continue our work there.

Here are a couple of sites dedicated to Wetland Conservation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:
    www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands

The National Wildlife Federation:
    www.nwf.org/ourprograms

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