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Georgia’s Altamaha River Offers a Life-Nourishing Coastal Ecosystem,

Prepared by Kathy C. Lynn, M.D.

Georgia’s Altamaha-fed coastal marshes are rich in biodiversity. Here, Jones Marsh, viewed from the Wormsloe historic site near Savannah, Georgia.

As a longtime resident of Georgia, Kathy C. Lynn, M.D., cares deeply about protecting the natural environment. Kathy C. Lynn, M.D., supports local organizations, such as the Georgia Wilderness Society and the Altamaha River Keepers (ARK). Based in Darien, Georgia, ARK serves as a grassroots organization, with a minimal budget and dedicated core of volunteers.

The Altamaha River starts at the confluence of the Oconee River and the Ocmulgee River, near Lumber City. Flowing for 137 eastward miles through southern Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean, the Altamaha is one of the state’s major rivers. Notably, the river has no dams along its course. With no dams barring the flow of water, tidal currents begin to exert force on the Altamaha River some 60 to 65 miles from the coast. The water is still fresh at this point, presenting a unique freshwater tidal ecosystem. Interestingly, the salt line is variable depending on the season and yearly precipitation levels. At its highest, the river churns fresh water straight to the coast, moving the salt line offshore. However, this is the exception to the rule: the salt line has been steadily pushing inward for several decades due to drought conditions and rising sea levels.

The coastal environment that the Altamaha River feeds is remarkably diverse. Near the coast, the river separates into a number of arms, forming a delta environment rich in aquatic and terrestrial life. Indeed, the region is known as the “Little Amazon” due to its high density and diversity of plants and animals, similar to that of a tropical environment. The effects of the river’s ecosystem range far beyond the delta itself. During high water, the Altamaha river sheets up and disperses through numerous coastal swamplands, affecting as much as half of the entire Georgia coastline.

Altamaha River Keepers plays a key role in maintaining the environmental health of the river, aggressively monitoring pollution and targeting those who cause watershed degradation. In response to citizen complaints, the group finds the source of the chemical and biological pollution. After performing a detailed inspection, ARK determines which government agency is best suited to address the problem. If the agency’s response is insufficient, ARK occasionally resorts to legal action.

Kathy C. Lynn, M.D. has served the Macon, Georgia, community through her private practice in internal medicine and rheumatology since 1995.

 

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