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Imagine if you will, the ecological S curve...

July 8, 2017

Lately it's come to my attention that the East Pemigewasset is being worked upon. Big machines are digging out rocks, rerouting the river here and there, and installing large cement cubes to bolster the banks along the unofficial condo city. This construction was apparently mandated by the Federal government in order to avoid flooding disasters caused by storms like Hurricane Irene in 2011. 


This construction ship has sailed. The condos are in, the stones are lain, the river is as straight as an arrow. I'm not sure what we can do about it, but it's important to understand the consequences of these actions and actions like it in any ecosystem.


Imagine, if you will, what happens when we straighten a river like this. 


First, let's acknowledge that the meager vegetation that is growing between these blocks is not enough to harbor neither Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, nor Trichoptera (that's Mayfly, Stonefly, and Caddisfly), and even if it did, the vegetation growing there must be yanked as it's forcing those blocks apart and causing the safety dyke to tumble. Off the bat, we've lost ample vegetation. We've lost overhanging trees and therefore, shaded spots for trout as well as occasional falling limbs off of those trees which also provide lovely trout habitat.


Equally important is that we've straightened the river. Streams and rivers are not meant to simply ejaculate straight out of their watersheds and into larger order rivers. They are meant to meander along their ecosystems. These meanders allow deposition of matter which, over time, allows natural banks and vegetation to emerge. These banks and islands allow habitat to form, where insects, nesting birds, otters, squirrels, snakes, and all manner of creatures may thrive, creating biodiversity. Rivers braid, they oxbow, they change course, and when they do these things, they create pools, riffles, and ecological opportunity. Rivers are the veins and arteries of our land.

A river's ability to S curve could arguably be the most important feature of a healthy river. Not only does it provide this healthy habitat, it acts as a cleansing agent, eroding and redistributing sediment, nutrients, and other deposits along the body of the river and its banks. Straightening a river spells death to the land it inhabits.


Recently Washington State's giant hydroelectric Elwha River Dam was deconstructed and its ecosystem has been restored to the point so that after nearly a century of absence, salmon have already returned, as well as some endangered salmon. 


I'm not suggesting New Hampshire do anything dramatic like, say, restore our wounded ecosystem, but it sure would be nice to start looking at what we can do to make sure any more of our rivers are not victims to urban growth, expansion and fragmentation




Rather than simply stocking fish continually year after year as our environment is degraded, wouldn't it be nice to enable our land and its rivers to hold wild populations of trout for generations to come?


Just something to think about... 


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