October 7 through 13 is Endangered Species Week in Missouri. Each day, October 8 through 12, KSMU presents a series on our state's endangered species. In the first installment, Michele Skalicky gives us an overview of the issue and tells us what we can do to help.
What would life be like without the Ozark Spiderwort or the Niangua Darter? While most people wouldn't notice if they disappeared, the demise of these currently declining species would have an impact on our environment.
Each morning this week at 7:30 we'll focus on endangered species in Missouri.
Under the Federal Endangered Species Act, an endangered species is any species that is likely to become extinct in the foreseeable future. A threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.
But Missouri has its own endangered species list.
"We do not have a threatened designation. For the state of Missouri, we've lumped them all into the classification of endangered."
Peggy Horner is the endangered species coordinator with the MO Department of Conservation. She says there are 67 species on the state's endangered species list.
"And that includes 18 plants and animals that are federally listed as endangered as well as 12 species that are federally listed as threatened, and then the other 37 species are species that are found in Missouri that may be declining or have threats, but they are not listed federally."
If efforts aren't made to save our endangered plants and animals, they'll become extirpated or gone from the state of Missouri.
Horner says some species that are endangered in the state are making a comeback thanks to efforts by the MO Department of Conservation to save them. Others aren't faring so well.
"We have a couple of species on our state endangered species list that are probably extirpated, but we still hope that we're going to find populations, and that includes two plants, the small whorled pagonia as well as the eastern prairie-fringed orchid. A couple of extirpated animal species that we're hoping to find are the curtis pearly mussels, the american burrowing beetle and maybe the winged maple leaf."
According to Horner, the Tumbling Creek Cave Snail is found in one cave in Taney County and it isn't found anywhere else in the world. Hellbender Salamander numbers continue to drop.
Two plant species that are very low in numbers in MO are the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid and the Mead's Milkweed. Both live in prairies, and the loss of native prairie in the state has harmed their numbers.
Horner says there's one overriding cause of species decline.
"I would say the number one cause is loss of suitable habitat or good quality habitat."
According to Peggy Horner, the decline and eventual extinction of a plant or animal can have an impact on humans.
"I like to use the analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Used to be that miners would bring a little bird, the canary, down in a cage when they went down in the mines, and, if the air was bad, the canary would die first, which would give the miners a chance to leave the mine before they became in danger. And I think our threatened and endangered animals are similar indicators that something's wrong with the environment."
Things are being done to save the species that are trouble, and the MO Conservation Department is leading the effort. But Horner says it can often be complicated and expensive to try to bring a plant or animal back from the brink of extinction.
"We do surveys to find out where some of these rare species are. We do research to understand why they are declining and how the species fits into the environment. We do a lot of management and restoration or unsuitable or polluted habitat so that the species can thrive in better habitat. We also do land protection, and we do a lot of public education, as well."
According to Horner, it's difficult to work on a species by species basis since there are 67 on the state's endangered list. She says, instead, they focus on those that are in dire need.
"And then we manage and restore and protect a lot of the areas and habitats with high biodiversity so that all the species will remain stable."
We can all play a role in the effort to save the state's endangered species. Horner says there are thing anyone can do to make a difference.
"First of all, people should learn what endangered species are in their area and what their habitat needs are. If you own land with an endangered species on it, learn how to manage it so as to not negatively affect the population that is currently living on your property and maybe even enhance the habitat to improve the status of the endangered species on your land. You can get some of this information by calling your local your local Missouri Department of Conservation field office. If you don't own property that has species on it, but you still want to help with land management, you can join a master naturalist chapter in your area and volunteer to help out on doing some management on public lands."
You can also take part in the Endangered Species Walk/Run held each year in Oct. in Jefferson City. This year the event will be held October 13th.
"What we're trying to do is get the public out to enjoy the outside, get some exercise, learn a little bit about Missouri's endangered species, and we do try to raise some funds that go to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation."
More information about the event can be found at mdc.mo.gov.
Horner says many of the projects to help the state's endangered species are working. Species such as the gray bat, for example, are on the rebound. But Horner's not too certain about the future.
"With global warming, with increased development and subdivisions in rural areas and some of our suitable habitat being removed permanently, I'm afraid we're likely to see more species added to the list, but, hopefully, we can get ahead of that curve and prevent that in the long run."
As our series on endangered species continues this week, we'll take you around the Ozarks to find out what's being done to help certain species in Missouri that are in trouble.
This program is available on the web at ksmu.org.
For KSMU, I'm Michele Skalicky.