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Virginia’s biodiversity is vulnerable. One of the biggest reasons for this is the conversion of open space for commercial and residential development. Then there is the fact that burning of fossil fuels is reducing air quality. Waterways are being polluted by toxic runoffs from agriculture, factories etc. Sea levels are rising due to climate change. There is also a lot of competition among the many wildlife species that call Virginia home.

The alarming environmental effects of human activity are already being faced by locals from the Appalachians to Chesapeake Bay. Here is a look at some of the most urgent ones.

Effects of Climate Change

Scientists and authorities are increasingly concerned about the imminent effects of climate change in Virginia.

  • Over 400,000 homes, most of them in Hampton Roads, are vulnerable to the storm surge damage that could be caused by rapidly rising sea levels. The Recurrent Flooding Sub-Panel has called sea-level rise a very real threat, as residents in Norfolk have daily proof.
  • With higher temperatures and heat waves will come the threat of diseases. Virginia is already experiencing irregular heat waves in recent years. Heat-related deaths could be one of the results of global warming. This will particularly affect the elderly, who live alone.
  • Higher temperatures can lead to poor air quality. This will affect the thousands of people in Virginia who already suffer from asthma.
  • Other effects of climate change could be the risks of drought, more flooding in tidal rivers and its associated problems, and the effects of high heat.

Waterways and Groundwater Pollution

The pollution of groundwater, streams and waterways from industries and agriculture continue to be a threat. Salt runoffs from roads, acidic runoff from burning fossil fuels, contaminants washed from petroleum products are some of the nonpoint source pollution issues in Virginia. Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation is working to protect the state’s water resources.

Fragmentation and Loss of Habitats

One of the effects of large-scale development of pastures and woodlands into urban centers and roads has been a fragmentation of habitat. Continuous areas of natural vegetation is more beneficial to wildlife and the state’s diversity than the same area of land split up into smaller patches. Larger continuous natural areas have a greater variation in habitats and are therefore more protected from nearby disturbances. They are also able to filter pollutants better.

However, every year, thousands of acres of land are being developed in Virginia. The fragmentation of land could lead to the decline of species that become vulnerable. It could also help invasive species to flourish.

In fact, new and invasive species like the kudzu and the Chinese chestnut are already a threat to the state’s native wildlife. The kudzu could kill off the gypsy moth, and the Chinese chestnut has introduced Chestnut blight that is killing native species which are not resistant to these new diseases.

These alarming issues are already beginning to rear their ugly heads. It is time to sit up and take notes on “Protecting Nature and Wildlife in Virginia”