We, and all the other animals and plants that make the Mogollon Highlands their home are dependent upon the presence of water. Water is so integral that without it there would be no life. It was in the warm salty oceans of our planet that life first came into existence as single-celled organisms. Over the millennia, these evolved into the myriad of lifeforms that we know today.
Water is found in many different places: in the large oceans and lakes and the small ponds and puddles. These bodies of water are homes to marine mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, seaweeds, corals, mollusks and shellfish, and even creatures that we have yet to discover. Other forms of water include the rivers that carve out deep canyons, and smaller streams, even the ephemeral ones, that nourish plants growing only along their banks. The water and plants combined are referred to as riparian areas. These areas provide homes for fish, waterfowl, frogs, toads, salamanders and newts, turtles and alligators or crocodiles that frequent them. Larger streams and rivers also provide food for these many creatures. Insect larvae grow and develop in the water before taking to the sky, and form the base of a long food chain.
Chemically, water is found in three forms: liquid rain, solid snow and ice. Each summer, we look forward to the monsoon rains that do much to replenish our reservoirs, lakes and aquifers. Just as important to our area as the monsoon rains are the winter rains and snows that leave cold blankets of preserved moisture to sustain the ponderosa pines and the other trees and plants beneath them. With the advent of snow, the ground begins to freeze, holding in and saving the precious moisture to be used gradually. Hopefully, this lasts until spring, when the runoff replenishes the streams and renews the soils.
In colder areas, ice preserves the frozen ground beneath it. In the Arctic, the ice even extends over the sea, providing habitat, shelter, and food for polar bears and other sea mammals. It’s on the ice that polar bears hunt for their food and where seals raise their young.
Water is a connecting resource. It provides for us all.
Contributed by HCNH Naturalist Sandy Stoecker