The Dan River and its tributaries are home to several endangered plants and animals that require a clean and stable environment to survive. It is important to be a responsible steward of the land to protect our wildlife and secure their future in the basin. Access to clean water and resources is as much a necessity for our ecosystems as it is for our residents.
Why should we be concerned about the loss of species? This excerpt from the US Fish and Wildlife Service explains it well:
"All life on Earth is interconnected, including humans. We depend on the diversity of plant and animal life for many resources, including food, many important medicines, and the ecological functions each species performs in its special niche. Every time a species becomes extinct, we lose the known and unknown benefits that particular species provides. Over half of the medicines in use today come from plants and animals, but only a small fraction of species have been tested to determine their potential medicinal value. When a species disappears, our opportunities to discover new cures and treatments become more limited, and important discoveries may be lost forever."
The Roanoke Logperch is an endangered darter species found only in the Chowan and Dan/Roanoke River Basins of NC and VA- nowhere else in the world can you find this species. Dams in our basin have restricted their movement while degraded water quality has greatly impacted their health and survival.
The James Spinymussel is a small freshwater mussel found in the Dan and Mayo Rivers of NC and VA. Habitat loss and modification have led to decreased numbers of this species: water pollution, agricultural runoff, sedimentation, impoundment of waterways and chlorine discharge are all culprits.
Goldenseal is a long lived yet slow growing perennial herb that has been used as an herbal medicine for hundreds of years. Over harvesting and habitat loss have placed this plant in jeopardy. Clear cut forest and eroded topsoil deprive the plant of the shade and nutrients it requires to thrive.
The Virginia Cup Plant is a perennial flowering plant found in many regions of the USA and is considered anywhere from threatened to invasive. In our region, it is a rare and beautiful find. The plants are typically 3-6 feet but can grow up to 9 feet tall. The opposing leaves fuse together at the stem, forming a 'cup'.
The Bigeye Jumprock is found only in portions of the Dan and Roanoke River watersheds. This elusive fish is rare over its range and is of special concern status in NC, where it is only found in parts of Stokes and Rockingham Counties. Siltation may have led to the extirpation of some populations.
The Orangefin Madtom is a federally endangered species found only in the Dan and Roanoke Watersheds across 9 counties in Virginia and only one county in NC. This rare species is considered sedentary, meaning their range is isolated to small areas. Habit degradation greatly impacts the survival of their population.
This bittercress species is very rare and highly endangered. It exists in less than 40 sites and exclusively in Stokes County NC and Patrick County VA. Once found in Forsyth County NC, the field has since been converted to a cow pasture and the species has not been located there again. The Small-anthered Bittercress has been negatively impacted and continues to be threatened by impoundments, channelization, and residential, industrial, and agricultural development. It is so rare than even an accurate picture of the species is hard to find.