Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Waterthrushes likely among many species native wildlife to be victims of pollution of Buffalo River tributary by Hog Farm: Read Joe Neal's comments below

Joe Neal wrote:
Yesterday, I received a fine correction to my comment about potential impacts on Louisiana Waterthrushes by a hog factory being built within the Buffalo National River watershed in Newton County. I said impacts on the waterthrushes would be minimal. I should have gotten my brain in gear before writing.

The Leesia Marshall mentioned below was a PhD student at UA-Fayetteville, a good friend of many of us in the birding community (she finished; Dr Marshall is now teaching back east). She performed research on waterthrushes in the Buffalo and tributary streams, with support from the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust, among others. She was actually sorting out how lower water quality impacts birds.

Here's the correction:

"Actually Joe, according to Leesia Marshall's research on Louisiana waterthrushes on the Buffalo, pollution is a major contributing factor to waterthrush numbers.  She found considerably fewer waterthrushes on tributaries with high levels of human disturbance.  Presumably their benthic macroinvertebrate prey is being killed off by pollution. The link between pollution and invertebrate numbers is already well understood.  When these creatures are effected, the problem ascends the food chain.  This hurts fish including my favorite ... endemics and lots of folks' favorite smallmouth bass.  This then effects herons, egrets, minks, otters and likely whatever critters rock your individual boat. The hog farm threatens all of these things, waterthrushes even more than most."

As I understand it, under the hog factory permit, no hog wastes are projected to reach the Buffalo. However, I have lived too long in the Ozarks, and seen enough heavy rains variously referred to as "toad stranglers" and "gulley washers," to believe otherwise. I once saw a rain so heavy folks were canoeing down Dickson Street here in Fayetteville. Hog wastes will reach the Buffalo. There will be impacts on waterthrushes. I stand corrected and I am deeply saddened by the reality. 

It is one thing to Call the Hogs at Razorback Stadium. We can be proud of that. But if someone just set out to ridicule all of us in "The Natural State" of Arkansas, how better a job could you do at tarnishing us than to have our official state agency with "environmental quality" in its name permit construction of a hog factory with waste application within the watershed of the United State of America's first National River?

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