Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Springs in the Desert

Out in the desert, you come to expect miles and miles of dry land. Every once in awhile you come across some water, and that water is a welcome sight.

The water provides water to drink, a resting spot for waterfowl, and home to fish, frogs, and other aquatic organisms.

The green in the foreground of this picture is watercress (Nasturtium officinale). Watercress only grows where water is present year round and in specific water conditions. In some desert springs, it is an important substrate for snails.

This tiny springsnail (Pyrgulopsis species) is one found on the watercress. It doesn't look like much, but it shows that the spring may have been around for thousands of years. I explain a little more about the life of a springsnail in this post.

Viewed from above, springs stand out in stark contrast to the surrounding bleak desert vegetation. Desert animals learn where the springs are and know how far they can go from their water sources and still survive.

Perhaps even skunks! Skunk Spring is located in an especially dry area.

Sometimes springs are developed to provide a water source for wildlife and livestock. To develop a spring, an area with greasewood is usually dug up, a collecting area and pipe installed, and the water flows downhill into a tub or other collector.

Not all desert springs are totally isolated. This spring helps feed a creek that leads into a lake.

Desert springs are hotspots of diversity. After all, who wouldn't like to live by a little water? They are also particularly vulnerable to changes in the water table. If these little green patches dry up, it could be many, many miles to the next water source. That's a scary thought when it's a hot, dry summer day and you've run out of water!


cslydon said...

My mom just sent me another article about SNWA and the attempts of them and Vegas to try more of a water grab so this is a very fitting post! I love seeing the pictures of home- I can't wait to come back and visit!

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