Drought hurts more than Missouri crops

Missouri is known for its lush green landscapes, but that has been hard to see over the dry summer. The rivers that were once nearly overflowing their banks are extremely low, and brown has become the predominant color of the landscape.

According to the Drought Monitor map, 97.44 percent of Missouri has been in extreme drought this year. Water is a key component to not only the way our bodies function, but the way nearly everything functions. The lack of rain has caused low yields in crop production, low streams and wetland areas, and a lower number of common insects.

Pat Guinan, state climatologist for the University of Missouri Extension, stated in September 2012, Weather and Its Impacts on Missouri that “year-to-date statewide precipitation averaged 24.5 inches, or 8 inches below normal.” Most Missouri residents are fretting over the low crop yields and dry dusty landscape, but many have overlooked the impact the drought has had on Missouri wildlife.

“Trees have been dropping leaves early, plants are going into survival mode, and even the insect population is down,” said Tim Jones, a wildlife management biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Some would find the decline in insect population to be a good thing, but the drought has had one of its biggest impacts on the spider population. Jones said that spiders can usually survive through nearly any condition, but the low moisture levels are hurting every species. Fewer spider webs are found floating around or strung from trees in the woods.

A major cause of the decline in wildlife population is the low food supply. The corn crop is less, feeding fewer deer and other animals that enjoy the yellow food source, and with the lower number of insects and bugs, the birds are eating less, too.

The drought’s wrath is having the worst affect on the fish population. Small fish and tiny aquatic organisms such as the many species of minnows that live in rivers and streams, are suffering. The decrease in available water has resulted in low oxygen levels for the fish. As creeks dry up, fish and aquatic life are losing their homes.

Like many lakes in Missouri, the Truman Lake area has suffered from the drought but is improving. According to Tammy Gilmore, Natural Resources Manager for the Harry S. Truman Reservoir, the lake is about a foot and a half below the normal level. The lake should be 706 feet instead of 704.4 above sea level. Furthermore, the hydropower plant near the lake hasn’t produced a lot of power to the surrounding areas due to the low water level.

The rain earlier this fall helped to green things up a little, but the wildlife population still needs more.

“Someday it will rain again,” Jones said.  “It is just part of the cycle.”

By Gina Olsen
Corner Post Staff Writer