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The Environment in Focus with Tom Pelton
Aquaculture is growing in popularity around the world, but the high density of waste created by fish farms poses an environmental threat. David Love, a project director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, is trying to solve this problem through aquaponics -- the recycling of fish waste to feed vegetables growing on rafts.
New pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay imposed by EPA in December 2010 promise to improve the estuary’s health. But farm and development industry lobbying groups have sued in federal court to overturn the limits, arguing EPA exceeded its authority and is trampling on states’ rights. A judge will now decide the landmark lawsuit.
Tina Meyers, Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper for an environmental group called Blue Water Baltimore, is among the clean water advocates asking Maryland to issue a stronger stormwater pollution control permit for Baltimore. A coalition of waterfront businesses and residents have set a goal of making Baltimore Harbor swimmable and fishable within eight years.
Phragmites, an invasive species of reed believed to have been introduced to North America from England, is often seen as a monster because the grass stalks grow three times the height of a man and drive out native plants and wildlife. But some scientists suggest the plant is more of a Jekyll and Hyde, because while it is bad for plant diversity, it may be good at protecting shorelines from erosion caused by rising sea levels and climate change.
Amid the rowhouses, graffiti and vacant lots of Baltimore, 10 farms have opened in recent years, growing vegetables and breeding chickens, rabbits and goats. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration is relaxing the city's livestock regulations to try to encourage more urban farms, which provide fresh food and an enhanced quality of life to the city.
Populations of frogs and other amphibians have been declining around the world. Researcher Lisa Schloegel and colleagues have concluded that the breeding and farming of bullfrogs in Brazil, Taiwan and China, and the international sales of these live frogs (including in the Asian market in Philadelphia, shown above) may be spreading a fungus that causes a disease called chytridiomycosis, which is often deadly in amphibians.
It is a story line that seems more fitting for science fiction than life in the Chesapeake Bay. An invasive species of barnacle from the Gulf Coast, Loxothylacus panopaei, is hijacking the reproductive systems of Chesapeake mud crabs (above), transforming male crabs into female-looking crabs that produce fake eggs sacs full of larval parasites.
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's administration is proposing new regulations to reduce fertilizer and manure runoff pollution from farms. Although the farm lobby opposes the rules because of the cost, hog farmer Will Morrow (shown above) supports the regulations, because cheap food carries a high price tag downstream, to public health.
The Chesapeake Bay region has now reached the "clipping point," where the nearly four million acres of lawns exceeds all the land devoted to corn, wheat, soybeans and other crops, according to a report by the Chesapeake Stormwater Network. "Bay Wise" gardeners like Lynn Dickens (above) are trimming back lawn fertilizer pollution by replacing their lawns with gardens of ferns, wild ginger and other plants native to Maryland.