How bad is the drought for freshwater wildlife?

White water lilies growing vigorously on the mud in a drying out pond

It’s natural to assume that drying our is bad for freshwater wildlife, a view often reinforced by environmental organisations, as you can see here and here.

Of course it’s nothing like as simple as this: water levels naturally go down in summer, rivers flow less and ponds and small streams often dry out. It’s something that’s been happening for millions of years, and quite a few plants and animals are well-adapted to this.

A classic example can be seen with water lilies, plants which you might assume needed water all the time.

In reality, lilies don’t mind low water and in summer are quite happy when there’s virtually no water left at all in a pond, as were these white water lilies (above) photographed this weekend in a pond naturally drying out at Woodcote, near Reading.

This same pond also had some nice patches of Gipsywort (below) growing in the drawdown zone – that naturally rich part of ponds and lakes which is exposed when the water levels drop in summer.

Gipsywort (Lycopus europaeus) growing at the Greenmoor Ponds, Woodcote (July 2010)

Mind you I wouldn’t mind a bit of water here in Abingdon – where there’s no sign that this is the wettest July of all time!


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