Drought affecting fish in several states

Reported by: Rebecca Rivers
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Updated: 7/09/2013 8:54 am
In creeks and rivers across the country, water usually flows as high as your waist but now it is only rocks.

Kansas State University biology professor Keith Gido is discovering that this drought is causing endangered fish species to disappear.

"The Ninnescah River we caught over 300 individuals in the summer of 2011. In 2012 we only caught 3, and then in this year we haven't seen them," Gido said. 

Species like the pike minnow and the silver chub may seem small and insignificant, but they play a large role in maintaining water quality.

"These species are important indicators of the health of the environment," Gido said. "And so having them out there is a good measure of whether you've got a healthy environment or ecosystem that your kids swim in and that people drink this water so it's important to maintain the health of the system."

Gido said that the drought is probably endangering aquatic animals in many states, not just Kansas.

"In fact we know throughout the Great Plains in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas in particular, we've seen similar droughts and they've had effects on not only fish, but other aquatic animals like freshwater mussels," Gido said.

Drought is a natural part of climate conditions, but the several years of drought and the use of dams in rivers is making it hard for fish to survive.

"Historically, the fish could move. When the river dried, they would just move downstream and then when it would become wet again they would move back into those water," Gido said. "But now because we've placed dams in all the rivers, those fish are no longer able to move and so unfortunately, that has limited the abilities of these systems to recover, these species to recover."

Gido said that it is possible for remaining fish to recolonize and researchers are trying to find different ways to keep these species alive.

"The one way that they are trying to mitigate those negative effects of dams is to have hatchery programs where they'll raise fish in hatcheries and then they'll reintroduce those into areas where they've been extirpated or disappeared," Gido said. 

Gido and his team of researchers study the Arkansas, Kansas, Gila, San Juan, Red and Platte rivers.
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