home Features The Damage We Do to Slough Wildlife

The Damage We Do to Slough Wildlife

Erez Harel | eharel19@dtechhs.org | May 20, 2019

View of the Belmont slough from d.tech.

There was once a saltwater marsh that used to surround the entire San Francisco Bay and in parts stretched miles inland. This original marsh was broken up by civilization, but there are remnants of that marsh, one of which sits on the edge of Redwood City: the Belmont Slough.

The slough ecosystem is often impacted by the school when students leave for breaks, or walk home on the Bay Trail, bringing with them trash and destroying habitats.

“I have seen students throwing trash, there is lots of trash around the school,” says junior Eric Francis. The food scraps left behind by students end up attracting wildlife and bringing them away from their habitats to potential danger of roads and students.

However, trash is not the only student-caused problem affecting the slough: erosion and trampling of the wildlife also put habitats at risk. “I saw students walking in the slough. They destroyed the plover nest on the trail last year,” says junior Jan Olshansky. “People also threw rocks at geese.” The slough habitat is not limited to the water, as birds that nest and feed in the grass and bank are also affected.

The effects of students on the slough habitat consists of more than just physical damage, states d.tech Environmental Science teacher Fannie Hsieh. “Volume of trash after lunch, like straws and plastic, get eaten by birds who feed in the slough,” says Hsieh. “Students don’t understand [the birds] are powerless against our actions. Birds die of starvation from being full of trash, [and] even the fresh water in puddles that birds rely on is being filled with kool aid and milk which the birds drink.”

A large issue with keeping the slough clean is motivation, since many students do not see how issues with the slough will affect them. Hsieh gave a few reasons why we should keep the slough clean, and how it affects humans: “The salt marsh is a place for juvenile organisms from the ocean to grow. It is a unique ecosystem where organisms are able to adapt to fluctuating salt content in the water. Humans also eat the same organisms when they grow and leave for the ocean,” notes Hsieh. “Toxic chemicals in students’ plastic garbage can even make it back to humans through the food chain.”

As long as there is still plastic in the water, the only way to slow the effects of pollution would be to stop it at one of its many sources. Potential solutions proposed by admin include keeping harmful trash away from the trail, having students eat inside, keeping trash bins inside, and keeping interactions with wild animals to a minimum, and there are currently steps being taken to implement them.

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