Guam – The recent heavy rains have caused a lot of dirt and mud to runoff into our island’s rivers and out into the ocean. This muddy runoff kills coral and damages the ecosystem.
If you’ve driven by the Ylig or Pago bays lately you’ve noticed that so much muddy water is flowing into them from the rivers that the bays look like they’re filled with chocolate milk. Department of Agriculture biologist Brent Tibbatts explained what’s happening saying, “The sedimentation that you’re seeing is usually red clay or something being carried from inland there can be a lot of sources of red clay inland there can be clearing due to fires can be clearing due to development can be clearing due to off-roading or farming those are all places where if vegetation is cleared away soil is left exposed and then can be washed away by the rain.”
All this soil is then washed into the rivers and from the rivers into the ocean. Once in the ocean all this mud and sedimentation chokes the coral and causes major damage to the ocean’s ecosystem.”Too much mud in the water can do several things, it can settle on corals and cause corals to not do well they need to have clear water and a lot of light and low nutrients to survive,” said Tibbatts.
The mud also settles on the bottom smothering food sources for various marine life. It’s not just the mud that causes problems Tibbatts explains that the nutrients in the soil cause more algae to grow, algae that covers and chokes out the coral. The coral creates an entire ecosystem for fish and all sorts of marine life to live in. While some sedimentation and soil runoff is normal for Guam because of it’s rainy climate Tibbatts says the island’s rainfall has been greater than normal. In fact Tibbatts says the island’s rainfall over the first six months of the year has been 30 percent higher than average. Aside from this increased rain Tibbatts says over the years they have noticed and increase of mud and sedimentation in certain areas. “Some places there certainly seems to be an increase there are places that in the last few years you’ll see muddy plumes coming out of rivers where you didn’t really notice them before,” said Tibbatts. Two examples of this are the Taleyfac river in Agat and the Ylig river in Yona.
All of this erosion takes away the rich topsoil creating badlands where nothing can grow. So how can you prevent all of this erosion and soil runoff? “Don’t burn plant vegetation if you’re involved with clearing either for farming or something else make sure that all proper environmental controls are in place to help keep the mud in place the soil in place so it doesn’t get washed out if you’re involved in construction make sure that all sediment controls in place at any kind of construction place.”
The Department of Agriculture has ongoing reforestation projects in Piti in the Masso river area about 11 thousand trees have been planted and in the Cetti bay area about 50 thousand trees have been planted. In fact this Saturday there is a public tree planting project in the Cetti bay area and if you’d like to help you can contact the Department of Agriculture or Guam EPA.