Editorial: We’re All Connected
This week The Sag Harbor Express begins a new environmental series focused on the interconnectedness of the natural world and how our ecosystem is affected in even the smallest ways, positively and negatively, by human activity.
We begin with a look at the dwindling horseshoe crab population — a critical species to our ecology and that of other sensitive areas like the Delaware River basin. Horseshoe crabs, it seems, have lived through five mass extinctions, but a population crash that began in the year 2000 has not seen a significant rebound since, and experts believe their fate is now in question.
Scientists are researching whether it is nitrogen-loading and the resulting blooms of toxic algae in our bays that might be effecting the overall population of what some scientists call “living fossils.” Some say this decline is due to the loss of eelgrass, which has largely disappeared as the result of frequent harmful algal blooms over the last three decades. Surprisingly, we learned this week that horseshoe crabs also are used for medicinal purposes, with their blood holding a beneficial clotting agent that can be helpful in making certain pharmaceuticals, meaning the decline in population is not only a critical issue for other species dependent on the horseshoe crab, and often, its eggs, but that it may also impact bio-medical research.
Then there is the issue of climate change and what scientist say are rising temperatures in our oceans and bays, which might very well contribute to its inability to spawn in such great numbers, impacting not only the population of horseshoe crabs but migratory birds dependent on the fatty content of its eggs to make the long journey from South America to the Arctic a reality.
Often, in these pages, we talk about the environment in terms of local government action, or community concern. With this new series we hope to engage science in a way that more fully examines the impact of our daily actions with real research, and emphasis on how interconnected this place we love truly is, and what needs to be done to save it.