By Joseph Robertia
The celebration of Earth Day is a time to think about the planet, the ways it may be changing and what those changes mean to its inhabitants — humans not excluded. Here on the Kenai Peninsula, many transformations are taking place with the flora and fauna, and while sometimes difficult to observe from a ground-eye view, the patterns of change are a bit easier to understand when seen from above.
To illustrate this concept, John Morton, supervisory biologist at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, presented “The Kenai Peninsula at 30,000 feet,” as part of Kenai Peninsula College’s Earth Day celebration last week.
“The bottom line is things are changing,” Morton said. “I’m not pointing fingers to the cause or offering up solutions, I just want to put the facts out and show the empirical data to let people know this is real and happening right here.”
Using satellite imagery overlaid with various graphics, Morton was able to show one of the most easily observable changes to occur to the peninsula in the last 100 years — the human population growth and subsequent urban expansion.
Rather than an area with no roads, a scattering of small towns, Native communities and fish camps, the completion of the Sterling Highway in 1951 and the discovery of oil in 1957 brought many changes to the peninsula over the next several decades.
“Just in the last 30 years the human population has increased from 25,282 to 53,578 people,” he said.