Eyes are no use in the absolute darkness of a cave. Without light, there is no need for camouflage to hide from predators. The Ozark cavefish has lived in lightless habitats for so long that the species has lost its eyes and color. Sense organs on the sides of its head and body help it find food.
Ozark cavefish are at the top of the food chain in the aquatic cave ecosystem. They eat small salamanders, crayfish and other small invertebrates that in turn receive their source of energy from bat guano.
Water pollution is the biggest threat to this species’ survival. Because rainfall trickles down into the cavefish’s home from the land above, its survival depends on good stewardship of private land.
The Department of Conservation received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to partner with private landowners in Southwest Missouri to protect recharge areas affecting the state-endangered Ozark cavefish. Landowners in these areas will be eligible for special cost-share rates when implementing conservation practices that benefit groundwater and cavefish protection. Contact Blake Stephens at the Department of Conservation Neosho office for more information at 417-451-4158, or e-mail Blake.Stephens@mdc.mo.gov.
Morels are likely to be popping up right now. Start hunting when the average of daily high and low temperatures reaches the 50s. Check stream valleys, mature forests and areas affected by forest fire. Morels appear first on south-facing slopes and last on cooler sites. Take a mesh bag or basket to carry your treasure. When you spy one, drop your cap to mark the spot and carefully examine the surrounding ground for more. To learn more about Missouri’s mushrooms see links below.
When researchers launched the 100-year Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) in 1990, they hoped to learn how different timbermanagement methods affect forests at every level, from towering oaks to tiny bugs. Results are trickling in, and some are surprising.
No one expected the species richness of forest-floor plants to decrease in areas with no timber harvest (an average of –1.8 species per plot), while richness increased in areas where all or some of the trees were cut (+1.8 to 2.5 species per plot). Legumes such as tick trefoil decreased in abundance in harvested sites, while wild grapes and blackberry vines increased. Plant species richness benefits wildlife.
To learn more about MOFEP, see links below.
Editor in Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Staff Writer - Arleasha Mays
Photographer- Noppadol Paothong
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Circulation - Laura Scheuler