USGS Logo Geological Survey Circular 1085
Our Changing Landscape: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

(Bob Daum)


The actions of wind, water, and people all change the land surface. Earth-science information plays a critical role in determining how well we adapt to the changes and, in the longer term, whether we can live in harmony with nature. All of the earth-science issues discussed in this report are global issues. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore also faces the challenges presented by each of these issues. Following are some challenges we must face.

  • Human activities, such as the burning of coal, oil, and gas, contribute to the amount of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. A warming of the Earth's surface may result.

  • As our population grows and our needs for natural resources (including land and water) increase, an area will have to accommodate these increased needs if it is to prosper.

  • It is estimated that each American requires 40,000 pounds of new minerals every year to maintain his or her current standard of living.

  • It is estimated that over the 20 years between the mid-1950's and the mid-1970's, the net wetland losses averaged 450,000 acres each year from natural forces and human causes.

  • By the year 2010, it is estimated that 75 percent of the U.S. population will live within an hour's drive of the coast—a dynamic and fragile environment that will likely be changed by the increased population stresses.

  • Almost any activity above and below the land surface has the potential for contaminating soil or water resources. This contamination can spread over large areas and take decades to be detected and removed.

The natural processes discussed in this report have been occurring for millions of years. Earth-science information provides us with estimates of extent and rates of change. We need this information to transform the challenges presented here into opportunities for locating new or additional land, water, and mineral resources; for emphasizing prevention of contamination rather than cleanup; and for increasing our ability to live in harmony with nature.

Responsible stewardship of our natural resources requires the balancing of human needs and expectations with resource realities. Although in theory many of these resources are renewable, they are renewed at very slow rates—often not in our lifetimes. Responsible stewardship accommodates these limitations.

Coordinated multidisciplinary efforts and increased cooperation among Federal, State, and local agencies, universities, and the private sector will help ensure that lessons learned at one scale or in one location will be communicated to people working at a different scale or in a different location.

Research and field investigations by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service have enhanced the understanding of the processes affecting the Earth, but more work is needed. Through concerted efforts, earth scientists will be able to provide decisionmakers and the public with the information and interpretation they need in order to plan wisely for future generations.

(Gary North)

If we are going to live in harmony with our changing landscape, we must manage it and use it wisely.

(Bob Daum)

(Gary North)

Our challenge is to reduce our dependence on energy and minerals and to reduce the pollution and contamination that are byproducts of our consumption.

(Ron Circé)

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Last Updated: 27-Apr-2009