Thursday, March 31, 2011

Natural Landscapes?

A Roadside Ditch
Driving on the Lower Suwannee NWR loop road a week ago, I was impressed by the way the landscape, and especially the hydrology appears to have been altered by human activities. Roads were built to get to the timber and later to get logs out. Except in the uplands, every road is bordered by water-filled ditches, the result of dredge-and-fill operations needed to move people and vehicles through swampy terrain. Consequences of road-building may include a greater area and distribution of open water than would have occurred under natural conditions and a possible lowering of the water table, making for drier uplands.

Shell Mound
Then on Saturday we heard a talk by Univ. of Florida archaeologist Dr. Ken Sassaman and his graduate students. They believe that much higher ground along the Refuges' coastline was altered by the activities of prehistoric residents. 

Activities of both the Paleoindians and much more recent lumbermen have apparently served to increase habitat diversity, and thus are probably favorable for wildlife. Nevertheless, one is led to wonder how different the area might have looked 12,000 years ago.

Except for occasional prehistoric shell mounds along the immediate coastline, paddlers will likely see landscapes much less affected by anthropogenic change than hikers.

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