Environmental consequences of prolonged drought
Prolonged drought, a condition where and an area experiences lengthy absence of rainfall have various but intense consequences on the environment.
It is difficult to address drought withought touching on climate change. The two are inter-twined since recurrence of drought , changes of temperatures and precipitation which in turn reduces vegetation cover, water sources and soil quality are in fact also effects of climate change.
Prolonged drought escalates stress on endangered flora and fauna in that some plants and animals that are threatened with extinction may die and disappear as a result of lack of rain.
In areas that have experienced dry conditions as a result of lack of rainfall, there is a likelyhood of setting off water and wind erosion of soil. And the consequences of which are drastic because the soil can no longer sustain crop production as it has lost its mineral rich top soil.
Increase in severity of drought can also cause increased fires in areas that have been left dry causing an impending havoc to the people living in the dry wooded areas.
Another consequence would be reduction and degradation of fish and wildlife habitat. You may wonder how their numbers would dwindle but remember when there is no rainfall the rivers dry up and as a result the lakes and rivers start to disappear or their water levels go down. When this happens, fish numbers reduce and the animals that depend on the water try to adopt to changes which eventually may reduce their numbers or even die as a result.
Delayed rains will also also affect certain trees that naturally develop shorter roots that may not be deeply rooted in the soil. These types of trees are most vulnerable since they will fail to reach underground water and as a result my be wiped from the land surface.
Interestingly also as a result of trees and plants dying, diseases and pests become a common phenomenon with insects that seek stressed trees in the increase.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) each year between the year 2000 and 2006, drought affect some 90 Million people each year worldwide.
As a result of drought, areas suitable for agricultural production decline due to encroachment of desertification in areas which were previously considered agriculturally productive.
Some of the ways in which we can thwart drought include among other things, encouraging water conservation measures, adopting of waste water treatment, training and creation of awareness on water conservation and irrigation. Farmers can also be encouraged to grow shorter season crops and heat tolerant varieties. In addition they too need to be well informed in pest management.