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Second in size only to the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (45 miles long and between 6 and 16 miles wide) is home to 500 identified plant species, 300 types of birds, 126 species of fish, 46 varieties of mammals, 69 species of reptiles, and 30 kinds of amphibians.
Unfortunately, the state's rapacious development, damming of rivers, chemical runoff from agricultural fields, and lack of concern for the environment have destroyed or threatened much of this priceless habitat.
They ranged from huge stands of mountain longleaf pine that grew amidst an open grassy understory to extensive and dense hardwood forests.
The longleaf pine—unique for its dense core used for naval stores, lumber, railroad ties, and "heart-pine" floors—once constituted the most extensive ecosystem in North America (90 million acres); that acreage has now shrunk to less than 3 million.
That forest nurtured a now-imperiled ecosystem of 35 species of amphibians, 56 types of reptiles, 88 varieties of birds, and 40 species of mammals.
The arrogance of that wealth factored into the decision to secede from the Union in 1861, with disastrous consequences.
The death of perhaps a fifth of the prime-age white male population during the war, the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital with the emancipation of slaves, political control by a liberal outside power structure followed by the reinstitution of conservative white rule, and finally the establishment of a system of racial apartheid all shaped the state well into the twentieth century.
So did the decline of cotton monoculture and the rise of industrialization together with the shift of economic activity from the Port of Mobile and river towns to inland and upland urban centers newly linked by railroads.
Both in physical size and in population, Alabama has typically ranked near the middle of the 50 American states.
The state's 52,423 square miles are configured in a length of 330 miles and a width of 150 miles at their longest and widest expanse.