But if you look beyond the death and destruction the floodwaters left behind, you will see signs of life that have not been seen for a very long time, according to Iowa Department of Natural Resources Botanist and Ecologist John Pearson.
“The floods set the stage for certain species of plants and animals to recolonize, giving them an opportunity to flourish in ways they weren’t able to prior to the flood.”
More water means more fish. “As water floods the landscape, fish move to areas where there is a greater food supply and positive spawning conditions,” says Pearson.
At DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge, an influx of river fish species into DeSoto Lake is expected to increase bluegill, crappie, and bass populations.
Graeve says they noticed the change almost immediately. Crayfish mounds appeared in extreme numbers, creating questions for biologists: Were so many simply hidden beneath the water in normal times? Or did flood waters create optimal reproductive conditions?
Salamanders and wading birds such as egrets and herons found a home in the floodwaters. “Frogs followed the edge of the water as wetlands converted to river,” explains Chafa. “They were leaping and hopping all over the place.”
Pelicans were seen feeding on fish in pools at DeSoto Bend, pools where there was once dry land.
Pearson says plant life diversity increases as well. Bit by bit the barren moonscape will start turning green, populated by plant species not seen in the area since the last floodwaters receded.
The delicate white flowers of whitestar morning glory (Ipomea lacunose) will appear against the background of new green. Spreading yellowcress (Rorippa sinuata) will spread its scraggly stems and leaves and yellow blooms across the sands.
“These species will be short-lived,” says Pearson, “one or maybe a few years; then they’ll be replaced by perennial vegetation. Gradually things will get back to normal as humans reclaim the land.”
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