Science

Mountains as Water Sources - Appalachian Expedition Part 2

Evidence of mountain top mining in the Appalachian Mountains. Photo: Library of CongressYou worry that the proposed mountaintop mining activities on Blair might have an impact on the quality of these water supplies. If the top of Blair is removed to uncover the low-sulfur coal at its center, rocks and debris will be dumped in the valley. This would fill in at least part of the river, eliminating it as a water source and destroying any aquatic life that is present.

Mountains as Water Sources - Appalachian Expedition Part 1

Mountain waterfall. Photo: USDAYou wake up to the sound of a mountain stream flowing next to your campsite. When you climb out of your tent, the sun is shining. How beautiful! Late spring or early summer is the best time to be hiking in the mountains of West Virginia. The temperature at night (60°F) is perfect for sleeping and during the day (75°F), perfect for hiking. The weather during the winter is less favorable for expeditions.

Mountains as Water Sources - Andes Expedition Part 2

You worry that many of the activities you have seen during the expedition might have an impact on the quality of these water supplies. So far, you've seen land cleared for farming and grazing, trees cut for firewood and charcoal, and plants removed during resource mining. You've even seen the bare land that is left behind. Without vegetation, erosion must be taking place, washing soil into the rivers and degrading the water supply. Are people other than those in the Andes affected by the quality of this water? Are other species affected?

Mountains as Water Sources - Andes Expedition Part 1

When you climb out of the tent this morning, there is a blanket of snow on everything. How beautiful! The sun is shining and although the air is cold, you know that by noon most of it will have melted and the mountain people will shed their heavier clothing and seek refuge from the sun.

Plants and People - Himalayan Expedition Part 2

At 14,767 feet (4,500 meters) you've reached the elevation where the high-altitude porters take over. While this exchange is taking place, you mention to one of the guides that you are amazed at how many useful plants there are in the mountains. He tells you that this is nothing compared to the way it used to be. Most of the people you've seen collecting plants are herdsmen who travel up and down the mountainside checking on their livestock. Local collectors either use the plants themselves or sell them in the local market.

Plants and People - Appalachian Expedition Part 2

You are amazed at how many useful plants there are in the mountains. The fact that plants like ginseng are rare is a reminder, though, that the variety of useful plants available in the mountains today is nothing like what it used to be. Traditionally, most collectors were local people who harvested enough for their families. Sometimes they would gather additional plants to sell in the local market. In recent years, however, there has been increased global demand for natural products like medicinal herbs. This has brought outside collectors to the mountain.

Plants and People - Appalachian Expedition Part 1

When you step out of your tent, the rain-soaked landscape reminds you that a storm blew through camp during the night. It's a little cloudy out, but the sun is already trying to break through. Before long the rest of your teammates are awake and you gather around the fire, eating toast with butter and drinking hot tea. Now that you know a little bit about the people of Blair Mountain and have seen their natural landscape, you begin to think about the relationship between the two. Do these mountain people use the natural resources found on Blair Mountain to survive?

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Appalachain Expedition Part 2

Mountain logging site. Photo: Library of CongressYou've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of plant life on Blair Mountain. Unfortunately, many of these plants are in danger. In addition to the threat of mountaintop mining, these plants are threatened by logging, agricultural practices, and tourist activities. These threats exist because people have discovered the vast resources-from fun to wood-that mountains have to offer and they are taking advantage of them.

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Himalayan Expedition Part 2

You've just been fortunate to witness the incredible diversity of life in Makalu-Barun National Park. Unfortunately, many of these plant and animal species are in danger. In addition to the degradation of forests and grasslands from cattle grazing, deforestation is taking place as trees are removed for fuelwood. You and your team even brought a camping stove to cook with so you wouldn't increase the pressure on these forests. More pressure comes from the illegal hunting of wildlife and harvesting of wild plants by outsiders.

Mountains as Biodiversity Hotspots - Appalachain Expedition Part 1

The Expedition Begins

The Appalachians. Photo: TMIAfter weeks of planning and preparation, your expedition is finally going to begin. First you land at Logan County airport in Ethel, West Virginia. After renting a car, you drive 20 miles to the town of Hetzel.

Hetzel, the closest town to Blair Mountain, is where you will spend a day making final preparations for your expedition.

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Last updated on 07/30/2014
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