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Published on: Feb. 17, 2011

and periodic dry conditions. However, scientific studies document that when intermittent streams are physically altered, their ability to perform the aforementioned services is often greatly diminished, even when engineers try to minimize impacts.

Improperly managed urban and suburban developments introduce silt and sediments through erosion, thereby choking these streams. Paving or lining them with concrete reduces their ability to prevent downstream flooding. Row cropping or manure and fertilizer application too close to intermittent streams introduces harmful silt and toxic ammonia, killing stream life and tainting downstream water supplies for wildlife and people. Removal of vegetation surrounding intermittent streams will cause siltation, destroy feeding habitat and shelter for wildlife such as raccoon, quail and deer, and decrease or eliminate the recycling of nutrients for downstream fish and wildlife. Improper gravel mining, in or around intermittent streams, degrades the fragile stream bottom habitat that supports so much life and can alter stream dynamics. Industrial run-off, dumped or piped into intermittent streams, also degrades habitat and kills wildlife. Water extraction for industrial or municipal use may totally dewater intermittent streams at times of the year when lingering water is critical to aquatic life.

Without clean flows, fish will cease to spawn. Without insect larvae to eat, amphibians will starve and birds will move to other locations, just as larger predators will find their food stores low. The many niche species that have adapted to this unique environment are so dependent on and restricted to intermittent streams that they face localized extinction when these streams are degraded. Intermittent streams are adaptable, but a combination of too many of these harmful practices can irreversibly damage their biodiversity.

Intermittent streams are crucial to Missouri, and not only because of the unique and important biodiversity that lives in and around them. These streams provide dozens of ecological services that benefit people, such as flood prevention and containment. They filter and store water that we use for drinking, bathing and recreation. They also hold water for agricultural irrigation and livestock. They provide water to the trees and vegetation that produce oxygen and sequester carbon dioxide, helping to combat harmful air pollution. Intermittent streams provide habitat for animals we love, and love to eat.

Streams have been Missouri’s legacy since before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark plotted their way up the Missouri River. And intermittent streams make up more than half of all miles of Missouri streams. Though these streams

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