The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to a multitude of wildlife, from the smallest of insects and fauna to fish to eagles and foxes. The park did not always have such a diverse group of inhabitants though. The river used to be so polluted that in the summer of 1969 it caught fire and became a symbol for environmental change.
According to the park’s website the water bug population specifically, which is temperamental because of pollution, is on the rise once more. The significance of these bugs goes beyond the idea that the ecosystem can support the smallest part of its wheel, but that as the populations rise in the lower tier animals, so too will the larger pieces of the ecosystem.
The site points out that as the population of bugs rises, the amount, in number and species, of fish continues to grow as well. Steelhead trout and pike, which only survive in incredibly clean water, are among the species returning to the river system.
One of the larger signs that the ecosystem is on the mend is the return of bald eagles to the river. Eagles are maintence-type birds, their return signifies an improvement to the area and can be used to help document the health of the river and surrounding areas. I remember in my home town, Erie PA when eagles returned to nest along Presque Isle and the importance it signified.
Scientists have used wildlife at all stages to work with the silent signs they bring about the health of an ecosystem area. The bad eagles have been nesting at the Cuyahoga River since 2006, they have returned every year to their nesting areas and are a reliable sign that the system can support them.
The importance of wildlife is just that. They serve as silent signals for the health of an ecosystem and, beyond that, work as warnings. If the eagles were to stop returning, something is amiss. There’s a sense when the wildlife goes quiet, like the moment before a storm hits and the birds go silent. The difficulty with using the wildlife as warning signs is how diligent humans have to be to them, there’s a constant need for observance and yet in some cases we still don’t care or are too busy to take notice it seems.