Ecological Change

6 June 2017

Jamestown, An What do you think of when you hear the name, “Pocahontas”? For me, the Disney movie, “Pocahontas”, pops up in my head. The movie where animals followed Pocahontas while she was singing gracefully about love and freedom. To be honest, as a kid, I absolutely did not understand the plot of the movie. The storyline was not simple as a poor girl who magically obtained a dress and fall in love with a prince in the movie, “Cinderella”. But as I became older, I began to learn that the story took place in Jamestown, the first permanent settlement in the Americas.

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Jamestown was a settlement in the colony of Virginia. Jamestown demonstrates the act of anthropocene in America when people first inhabited it. The settlement of Jamestown ecologically changed the land by the acts of man, for their greater good. Everybody knows of Pocahontas, but only several have heard about her husband, John Rolfe. John Rolfe was one of the early English settlers in Jamestown. Rolfe might be considered the man who prevented the fall of Jamestown after the starvation and harsh conditions the settlers faced. There were a lot of competition between the

English and Spain for European markets, and one of the big material was tobacco. However, while the Spanish enjoyed the product, the English did not like the native tobacco from Virginia. Tobacco was not very popular in England, so it did not appeal to the market. But Rolfe wanted to introduce sweeter strains, so he used the rare Spanish seeds he brought with him. The tobacco he produced was “Pleasant, sweet, and strong”, which pleased England. Virginia tobacco was a hit. The sole source of fine tobacco popular in England were from Spanish colonies, so it was considered npatriotic.

But when Rolfe brought the shipments, London tobacco houses were all over the product. The virginia leaf was better and from one of their own colonies. However, although the shipment of tobacco was beneficial to Jamestown, it also damaged it as well. After the success of tobacco, many new colonists came to Jamestown. The new immigrants flooded Chesapeake Bay. The new colonists began to plant tobacco across the colony on every available river bluff. When the soil was useless and worn out, they gave the fields to cattle and searched for better areas.

Tsenacomoco was becoming like Europe, changing because of the acts of humans for their own good. To ship the tobacco, ships took in barrels of rolled-up tobacco leaves. The barrels each could hold half a ton or more. The barrels were heavy, so to balance the ship, “Sailors dumped out ballast, mostly stones, gravel, and soil- that is, for Virginia tobacco they swapped English dirt”. The dirt they swapped contained probably the most important organism that made Jamestown suitable for living. The soil contained earthworms, which were thought to be agricultural pests.

When Charles Darwin, one among the first to realize that they were actually beneficial, wrote a book of all the amazing power the earthworms had, earthworms were finally recognized. When Jamestown, which did not have any earthworms before because of the most recent ice age, was introduced to these creatures, the place received healthy soil and appropriate conditions tor agriculture. Earthworms created massive network ot tunnels by eating through the soil beneath the ground, making it able to let in air and water. These two elements are required for healthier soil.

Temperature in Virginia an make the earthworms “Turn over the upper foot of soil” every few decades, which made them ecological engineers who reshaped entire expenses. The creatures can also clean up piles of leaves in a few months and insert castings or worm excrement filled with the leaves’ nutrients into the soil. This causes the trees and bushes in places where no earthworms are living, die. The trees and bushes depend on litter for food. So, if the earthworms take away the nutrients into the soil, the plants will be unable to find the litter.

This makes the forest lose its understory, which are bushes nd plants living underneath the main canopy of the forest. One of the understory plants are tree seedlings, that will prevent trees to grow after the main trees die off. The earthworms meanwhile compete for food against small insects, decreasing their numbers. Also the population of the organisms that live off the leaf litter such as, lizards, small mammals, and birds decreases. These decreasing numbers of animals and the lost of the understories’ origin was clear, but nobody knows what happens next.

According to Cindy Hale, a Minnesota worm researcher, “Four centuries ago, we aunched this gigantic unplanned ecological experiment. We have no idea what the long-term consequences will be. ” This ecological damage made by the earthworms wasn’t the biggest ecological impact on Jamestown. It was a smaller creature, the European honeybee. A ship filled with unusual cargo such as, grapevines and silkworms, came to Jamestown in 1622. The grapevines and silkworms gave little effect, but the bees prospered. Bees are required for fruits and some plants to grow because of the pollen it carries.

Usual bees pollinate few plants and are picky on where they live. But European bees pollinate Just about any plant they see. The bees were transported to Jamestown for honey, not to pollinate crops. Pollination was not known to humans until the middle of the 18th century, but because of the bees, farms and orchards became rich and healthy. Without the bees, many plants brought to Jamestown from England would have not increased in numbers. Bees were so important to Jamestown that in the chapter, Mann states, “Critical to European success was the honeybee that Indians came to view as a harbinger of invasion”.

Other small animals also affected Jamestown. Chesapeake Bay was filled with bogs, marshes, grassy ponds, meadows, and small streams. The area was mostly wet, no matter the season. This is because of the American Beaver. The beavers lives in dome-shaped houses which was made by blocking streams with leaves and mud, creating dams. The dams made the water spread across the land, producing small wetlands and pools. While the Indians used this to their advantage by using canoes for easier navigation, colonists had a hard time traveling through. However, Europeans later hunted the beaver for its fur.

The colonists hunted the beavers to ear extinction. The fur was mostly used for hats because of its soft, rich texture. Because of this, the colonists unintentionally replaced the beavers with the earthworms as its natural engineer. The tobacco, earthworms, and honeybees are not the only things the English brought to Jamestown. They brought all the other species that would be usually be seen in european farms, such as, pigs, goats, cattle, and horses. Although they were once eaten by the colonists when they were starving during the contlict between the a ns they began to multiply during the peace after Pocahontas’ marriage.

The number of animals increased so much that the colonists lost control of them. Out of all the animals, the most multiplied animal was the pig. The smart and strong animal broke out into the woods after they multiplied, eating fruits, nuts, and maize since they were constantly hungry. The pigs especially liked a root called the “Tuckahoe”. They ate so much of it that the people living in Tsenacomoco realized they were competing against the pigs for their food supply. Jamestown, as a business, was a disaster. The profit of tobacco was not enough for Jamestown that its venture collapsed miserably.

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