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Tennessee River Ecosystem

Ecosystem refers to the way in which living and nonliving organisms interact together in an environment (Bailey, 2009). For these to exist together, there has to be a system that they follow religiously and which fosters order in the environment. Events of the recent past have led to disruption in natural ecosystems to an extent where some species of living organisms are almost becoming extinct. These events include both natural and human enabled occurrences. Some of these include deforestation and artificial contaminations. Natural ones include climate change, erosion, changes in microbial components of the soil and many others. All these affect different ecosystems hence driving the need for ecosystem management.

The Tennessee River flows across four southeastern states in the USA to form one of the largest tributaries in the country.  The river is essential in the economy of these states, which include Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. The river spans over 100km before joining river Ohio (Arthur, Colbert, 2005). Many dams have been constructed along the course of river Tennessee. These dams are used for farming activities or other economical and socially viable projects in the area. It is also used extensively for recreational purposes.

One of the dams formed along this river is the Nickajack Lake in Tennessee. The dam is one of the largest created along the river course. It is used for agricultural purposes and recreation. It also supplies water to the neighboring communities.

As a body of water and numerous organisms, Nickajack Lake is an ecosystem. One of the dynamics of an ecosystem that changes over time is the size (Smith, Robert, 2012). Size can range from a small pond of water to a large ocean. The size of this dam keeps changing, depending on the water levels in the Tennessee River. Normally the dam is about 600 feet above sea level. This level keeps fluctuating between dray and rainy seasons. This change occurs naturally, without any form of human interference.

Components of the dam also keep changing. This is another dynamic of ecosystems that is constantly changing. Components can either be biotic or abiotic. These are living and nonliving things respectively. New components are always brought into the dam by water from upstream. As the water flows away from the dam, it carries with it other components from the dam. This is a continuous process since water cannot be stagnant in the dam.

The biogeochemical cycle of the dam has been altered over the time. This is a common eventuality for all ecosystems. For instance, there is a larger percentage of carbon dioxide concentration in the reservoir. This is because of activities such as plant and soil respiration, burning of fossil fuel and deforestation (Introduction to Biogeochemical Cycles). These affect the balance of the ecosystem in various ways. For instance, carbon is needed for plants to manufacture food. Hence, its level in the dam’s ecosystem determines the amount of food manufactured. This affects the entire food chain in the system.

Nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the water are affected by human disposal of nitrogenous wastes and other chemicals. This is dangerous for organisms living in the water. Some of them end up dying as a result of such contamination. Alterations on the level of nitrogen and phosphorous may be harmful to the water inhabitants because of the formation of acid rain. It will hence cause a decrease in the ecosystems’ population hence altering the structural composition of the dam.

Ecosystem management deals with formulating policies that will ensure the ecosystem remains inhabitable for all components. At Nickajack Lake, duties of management are left to the Tennessee River Authority. Management has to include a valid and feasible plan of work. This should include matters that need urgent attention. The management of this reservoir should hence know the factors that are affecting the structural composition of the ecosystem. These could be human interference of natural causes.

They also need to familiarize themselves with the structure of the ecosystem. This includes facts such as the species that exist in the ecosystem and others. By knowing this, the management team will have an idea of what to allow and not to allow into the dam’s ecosystem. In efforts of restoration, the team has to be aware of the preexisting structure and functions so as to know what they are working towards. This knowledge will give the team an idea of what the reservoir will be like one the restoration is complete.

Species interact to form distinct cycles in an ecosystem. There can be incidences where such interactions change. This could result to alteration of the former cycles. This is common especially following drastic changes in the chemical component of an ecosystem. In such cases, management has to familiarize themselves with these changes so as to be objective when carrying out future endeavors regarding the ecosystem. The Nickajack Lake ecosystem could benefit from restoration efforts aimed at reestablishing the health ecosystem that was once evident in the reservoir.

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