With the Super Bowl coming to Houston, Texas, early next year, the bustling city has been prepping for a flood of football fans. A large metropolitan city, with one of the largest medical centers, located in the middle of one of the largest states in the U.S., Houston has seen its fair share of urbanization. Having lived in Houston all my life, I’ve been able to see my hometown slowly grow. Gradually watching the grazing lands near my own home turn into new neighborhoods, and watching the cows and horses slowly dwindle in number was astonishing to me. Although, as a city, we’ve been focusing on attempting to add to the metropolitan areas, we forget to pay attention to the land that Texas is fortunate to have. Our open coastal prairies are what make Texas beautiful, but in the process of urbanizing, we are losing the natural beauty of our state.
Texas prairies are an important part of the state since they contain such a high level of biodiversity. In a study published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology by David Saalfeld et al. of Stephen F. Austin University, it was shown that from the prairie and pasture areas they surveyed, they found seventy-nine different bird species while the diversity of the plant life varied depending on the conditions of the area and the maintenance being done to the specific area (Saalfeld et al, 2016). The results from this study also show that each bird species depends on a specific variation of vegetation (Saalfeld et al., 2016). Diversity in wildlife depends on diversity in vegetation, but diversity in vegetation also depends on diversity in wildlife. Both go hand-in-hand, and it is very important to keep this in mind when planning on building over these valuable pieces of land. A very vital aspect to preserving coastal prairies would be the maintenance required. As mentioned in the study published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology by David Saalfeld et al. of Stephen F. Austin University, the different conditions that prairie lands were placed under influenced the species diversity. If Houstonians were to focus on preserving our coastal prairies, it is not enough to only be aware of the threat to prairie habitats, but it is equally as important to be educated on prairie ecosystems and conditions.
Some may argue that it is important to continue to urbanize in order to keep up with our progressive society instead of focusing on prairies that may not serve a purpose to our society anymore. Although, not only do Texas coastal prairies provide biodiversity, they may also serve as protective measures specifically for the Houston community. Recently, a case study published in Catena by Zope et al., of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, has shown the destructive impacts of urbanization on Mumbai, India. The findings from the study show that urbanization has led to an increase in flooding (Zope et al., 2016). The Houston area may face this same problem in the future, and just over the past two years we’ve been able to notice abnormal amounts of flooding in the Houston area. News reports have talked about the influence destruction of prairie ecosystems may have had on the fairly recent flooding that was seen in Houston. According to Janice Walden, Galveston Baykeepers’ Board Member, John Jacob, sums up the issue succinctly: “‘less wetlands: more flooding: worse water quality: less fish’”(Walden, 2016). The influx of football fans is not the only kind of flooding Houston may be witnessing in the near future. Continuing to urbanize unique Texas coastal prairies will not only strip the city of its wildlife biodiversity, it may even lead to the destruction of these newly urbanized areas. Bulldozing over coastal prairies may seem to provide an immediate profit, but it is gradually preparing the Houston city for a greater economic loss which may involve repairing flooding damages.
R, David. “Houston Flood.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 4 May 2016. Web. 05 Sept. 2016. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/142685823@N02/26210743674/>.
Saalfeld, David T., et al. “Wintering grassland bird responses to vegetation structure, exotic invasive plant composition, and disturbance regime in coastal prairies of Texas.” The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 128.2 (2016): 290-305. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Sept. 2016. <http://ezproxy.rice.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=116525901&site=eds-live&scope=site>.
Walden, Janice Van Dyke. “Houston’s Flood Problem – Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine.” Gulf Coast Mariner Magazine RSS2. Bay Group Media, 02 May 2016. Web. 05 Sept. 2016.
Zope, P.E., T.I. Eldho, and V. Jothiprakash. “Impacts Of Land Use-Land Cover Change And Urbanization On Flooding: A Case Study of Oshiwara Rice Basin in Mumbai, India.” Catena 145. (2016): 142-154. Enivronmental Index. Web. 4 Sept. 2016. <http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.rice.edu/science/article/pii/ S0341816216302144>.