A nature-lover’s paradisePublished 4:45pm Monday, April 4, 2011
Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the union thanks to its unique geography, which includes the Appalachian Mountains in the north, the Mobile-Tensaw river delta in the south, a Gulf of Mexico coastline, and a huge number of lakes and wetlands as well as creeks and rivers in a number of independent drainage systems.
Roughly 10 percent of the freshwater in the continental U.S. originates in or flows through Alabama. There are about 77,242 miles of rivers and streams in the state. The surface area of water in Alabama is about 33.3 million acres.
Lake Martin is part of the Tallapoosa River drainage area, which has a 4,675 square mile watershed. Most of the waters that flow into the Tallapoosa River flow through the Alabama Upland Piedmont soils, which provide few nutrients. This is the primary reason that Lake Martin is one of the cleanest lakes in the state. The lipstick darter, stippled studfish and Tallapoosa darter are three fish found only in the Tallapoosa River drainage and nearby tributaries.
Because of its very large freshwater resource, Alabama is home to more freshwater mussels species, 180, than any other location in the world. Its freshwater snail species, 203, is among the most diverse in the world. And Alabama has more species of crayfish than any other state, 83. There are at least 303 different species of freshwater fish living in Alabama; 20 are found nowhere else.
Alabama is home to 38 percent of fish species, 51 percent of freshwater turtles and 60 percent of the freshwater mussels found in North America.
Alabama plant life benefits from the state’s divergent geography and abundant water as well. With nearly 4,000 species of native or naturalized mosses, ferns and seed-producing plants living here, Alabama ranks No. 5 among states for flora diversity, according to the Alabama Herbarium Consortium. Because most of the state’s borders do not coincide with geographic obstacles, the vast majority of plants native to Alabama are found growing in other states, too.
~ Kenneth Boone