Mysterious Playa Lakes

This is Passport to Texas

Playa lakes, which form in shallow depressions in the earth, are common in the High Plains of Texas, but are uncommon as water bodies go.

Well, with a playa lake, when a drop of water falls, it goes into the middle of the lake basin and that’s where it stays. This water may work its way down into the Ogallala Aquifer, or it may evaporate, but each playa lake is the lowest point in its own watershed.

Bill Johnson, is a waterfowl and wetlands biologist in Canyon, Texas, and says the water you see in the playa today, may not be there in a few months’ time.

Playas tend to go wet and dry. And there’s nothing wrong at all with a dry playa. We’re a semi-arid region, and our evaporation rate is much, much higher than our rainfall rate.

In fact, if a playa were wet all the time, says Johnson, it would not be nearly as important to waterfowl.

When a playa goes dry, it causes the germination and growth of moist soil plants. These plants are generally annual plants—such as the smart weed, or barnyard grass. Now these plants are very productive, and they produce the seeds that ducks eat. If these playas didn’t dry up, then they would have an entirely different pant community that wouldn’t be as productive—they just wouldn’t produce as much food.

Information about playas is at passporttotexas.org.

That’s our show… with support from the Wildlife Restoration Program… providing funding for wetland conservation through the Private Lands Enhancement Program.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

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