Essay: Jamaica Bay

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  • Subject area(s): Environmental studies essays
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  • Published: 30 September 2015*
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  • Words: 1,232 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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Jamaica Bay is a beautiful 9,151.8-acre sanctuary located on the southern side of Long Island, and between Brooklyn and Queens. It is filled with countless islands, waterways, meadows, and even two ponds that are home to many wondrous organisms. Jamaica Bay contains over 325 species of birds, 60 species of butterflies, 90 species of fish, and one of the largest populations of horseshoe crabs[11]. During the 1800s, asphalt factories, lead-smelting operations and bone-boiling businesses were set up in and around Jamaica Bay. In the 1900s, there were facilities for turning dead horses into glue and a ‘horse boat’ would bring dead horses through the waterways to this facility. There were plans put in action in order to make Jamaica Bay the world’s largest deep-water port due to the more congested waterfronts in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Eventually, the Rockaway Inlet was dredged and New York’s first municipal airport was created. With the help of Commissioner Robert Moses, the project ended and put the majority of Jamaica Bay under Parks jurisdiction in 1938. After all the developments, construction, and industrialization that has happened beginning the 19th century up until around the late 1930s, Jamaica Bay has strived to stay alive and has become an incredibly diverse home and a stopover for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway route along the Atlantic coast.
Jamaica Bay contains various ecosystems, which contain a community of organisms and nonliving factors that interact with each other. Organisms living in these various ecosystems are dependent on each other for various needs.
Salt marshes are areas of coastal wetland abundant in marine life that are located in between low and high tides. Some organisms that live in this ecosystem include cord grass and fiddler crabs. They are interdependent meaning they both depend on each other for various needs. The fiddler crabs create burrows in the soil which makes it more porous, meaning the material has spaces in it that allows air and liquid to pass through. The cord grass provides extra support for the soil which enables the fiddler crabs to make their burrows and provides other organisms with a shelter from predators[10].
Fresh water ponds are bodies of water that have a very low concentration of salt.
Brackish water ponds are bodies of water that are slightly salty and are normally a mixture of river water and seawater.
Many organisms live in these ecosystems like native reptiles, amphibians, detritivores, horseshoe crabs, butterflies and small mammals. The animals and their ecosystems are all interdependent on each other.
A watershed is the area of land where all the water above and below the surface drains into the same place. The Jamaica Bay watershed covers about 71,000 acres (111 miles) of land that stretches from Glenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn to Glen Oaks, Queens and to Jamaica Bay. Glenwood Cemetery has the highest elevation within the watershed, Glen Oaks being the second highest, and Jamaica Bay being the lowest point. Within the watershed there are many impervious surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, brick, and stone. Liquids such as rain cannot pass through or be absorbed by these materials. This causes run-off which is the flow of excess water from natural factors such as storms, melting, or rain. Run-off can also be caused when soil has reached saturation point where it has absorbed so much of a liquid that it cannot absorb any more. This excess water can also transport nutrients, chemicals, and other substances because the it is able to absorb them. All free-flowing water within the watershed travels down and collects in the bodies of water located in Jamaica Bay. This provides water for living organisms and allows plants to grow meaning that many organisms are interdependent in the watershed.
Human Impact
In the Jamaica Bay watershed, there are many buildings and structures and other city-like features. It is also the most densely populated area with over 1.7 million residents living and working within the watershed[11]. People have the capability of creating or destroying, and to help or worsen. In other terms, this is human impact.
Something people do that benefits the ecosystem is growing plants because plants provide more oxygen and serves as food for other organisms. Plants are autotrophs meaning they produce their own energy through a process called photosynthesis. Autotrophs use CO2 (carbon dioxide) + H2O (water) + Sunlight to make O2 (oxygen) + C6H12O6 (glucose). Plants are the most important organisms in the food web since they have 100% of their energy because they don’t consume other organisms.
Something people do that is negative for the environment is littering because when there are heavy rains or strong winds, litter gets carried down into storm drains and the sewer system and ends up in Jamaica Bay. Majority of the products that are littered are plastic and it takes many centuries for plastic to break down. Over time, it breaks down into micro plastics due to constant exposure to sun, wind, water, and heat and causes many marine organisms to mistake it as an edible substance such as plankton and receive no energy by filling their stomachs up with this indigestible matter. Then, a process called bioaccumulation takes place meaning an organism consumes plastic and gets eaten by another organism and this plastic transfers to their stomach and doesn’t get digested. This process continues until the top predator eats an organism with said plastic to a point where by the time the organism gets to the top predator, the plastic accumulation has magnified to such an extent that the predator is only receiving plastic and artificial energy.
Water Quality
Water is a very important factor in ecosystems and it’s important to know whether it is healthy or not. There are many organisms within Jamaica Bay that are water-dependent meaning they use water, feed on marine organisms, or live in bodies of water. There are a few ways to identify poor water quality by looking for impurities caused by natural or artificial factors. One way is by the levels of dissolved oxygen found in freshwater bodies. This is important for aquatic organisms that need to breathe such as fish, zooplankton, and oysters. Scientists test this using the Winkler Method and is executed at the site so there is no delay period between the sample collection and the testing that may result in a difference in oxygen levels. This test involves titration which is a slow process where the sample liquid completely fills a sample bottle and a variety of mixtures are added to create an acidic compound and a neutralizing compound is slowly added until there is a color change in the sample to indicate the dissolved oxygen concentration in the sample[12]. Another substance that scientists test for in water is concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria which is found in human and animal intestine and is also associated with sewage pollution. A healthy body of water contains less than 400 fecal coliform colonies per 100 mL. Scientists test this by using the membrane filtration method in which you filter a few differently-sized parts of a sample. This is done with a filter with a standard sized diameter and pores. The filter is put on a petri dish containing a nutrient medium and then all this is put in a temperature-controlled space for a certain amount of time. after that time is passed, scientists then count the amount of fecal coliform colonies have grown on the filter.

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