In recent years, human-induced climate change has been having a major impact on the environment of southern Mississippi. More frequent storms and periods of drought are affecting the river's flow, and warmer temperatures are leaving it unfrozen for longer. This not only affects wildlife, but also human beings who live near the river. As people get closer and closer to the riverbank and demand more from the river, the increasing cycles of floods and droughts have a greater impact on them.
Population growth is also having an effect. As our population increases, the demand for drinking water increases, which puts pressure on the river. Population growth has also increased household and industrial waste. Some of that waste is now entering the river higher than ever before.
As science better understands the long-term effects of some industrial waste, we are facing new challenges. Over the years, various aquatic recreational activities have been developed, and more and more people are using the river despite the fact that some uses are not compatible with each other or with commercial transport. And while commercial transportation (barges, riverboats) came first, the ways in which companies use the river have also continued to change. The Mississippi River and its tributaries have been affected by nutrient runoff, specifically an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus.
These nutrients are essential for growing soybeans and corn, but are often unintentionally lost in rivers and streams, where they become pollutants and waste farmers' money. Environmental conditions establish the definitive limits of human societies and their activities, but they do not prescribe what direction people should take in certain situations. To address this issue, the Environmental Protection Agency set a goal of reducing the nutrient load on the Mississippi River by 45%. The current flood control system in Mississippi is a commitment that results from a long and complicated interaction between interest groups, which strives to balance very contradictory points of view on the economy, politics, engineering and the environment, but which satisfies few and faces an uncertain future. Historically, pine forests have dominated central and southern Mississippi, and loblolly pine and short-leaved pine have given way to long-leaved, cut pine trees in the southernmost parts of this area, known as Piney Woods.
The soils of the south coast and of the so-called belt of flat forests in the northwest are the poorest for agricultural purposes. The environmental issues in southern Mississippi are unique due to their complexity. The combination of climate change, population growth, industrial waste, nutrient runoff, flood control systems, and agricultural practices all contribute to a complex set of environmental issues that must be addressed if we are to protect this region's natural resources. It is essential that we take action now to ensure that these issues do not become worse in the future.