When a region receives a constantly reduced – usually none – water supply be it from rain or other sort of technologies, it’s been affected by drought. Usually lasting for years, severe droughts can cause real damage even if they last a couple of months.
But the effects are way beyond the physical damage we see (like the reduced crop) and are more likely to influence the economy, the society and obviously the environment.
“Inspired” by what I’ve read about Southern Australia, I decided to see what are some environmental effects of droughts and if there’s something we can do about it.
- Increased desertification and damage to animal species
- Damage to wildlife habitat, animal and plant species
- Diseases and increased predation
- Increased number and severity of fires
- Wind and water erosion of soils
The degradation of the land which is what drought causes, has a major impact on the environment causing biodiversity loss and loss of productive capacity. For example, if current trends of soil degradation continue in Africa and no other measures are being taken, they’ll end up feeding only 25-percent of the country’s population.
Lack of water and lack of food will have a great effect on animals and plants in the drought-affected areas.
Diseases get established in a drought stressed plant and the impact of the root rots may be significant. Usually, because of the hot days and chilled nights, dew may form on the leaves of the plants causing humidity and leaving them exposed to diseases. Also during drought periods, snakes have been known to emerge and snakebites become more common.
Fallen branches, leaves, grasses and scrub usually dry out and become highly flammable causing uncontrolled fires. That’s what happens when there so much sun. South-east Australia is considered one of the most fire prone areas of the world, common for sever bushfires.
According to vulnerability, drought creates windblown dust bowls which erodes the landscape, damages terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat.
But something can be done about it. There are a few measures that can be taken against drought effects, which are called mitigation strategies:
- desalination of sea water for irrigation or consumption,
- rainwater harvesting – collection and storage
- water recycling – sewage wastewater that is being treated and purified, and used for irrigation
- cloud seeding – it’s a new artificial technology that induces rainfall
- water restrictions if needed
- drought monitoring – that’s obvious.
Here are some bad looking drought pictures: