Most of us are very familiar with winter kill, the toll that ice storms, deep snow and severe cold take on plants, wildlife and humans as well. This year, those of us who inhabit the Great Plains and Midwest are also dealing with summer kill, the effects of the prolonged drought and intense heat of this past year.
Today, with the "assistance" of our 5 year-old grandson, we removed a large, dead yew on the back edge of our property and I hauled its remnants to our local mulching site. We will miss both its greenery and its role on our natural privacy fence and many of the winter songbirds that used to roost among its massive branches will certainly miss the shelter that it provided.
Compared to the hardships endured by farmers and ranchers, our loss from the heat and drought has been minimal and the death of the yew will be a minor disruption in the lives of our neighborhood wildlife. But, when one considers the widespread effects that our scorching spring and summer had on natural ecosystems, one gets a glimpse of the long-term impact that global warming might have on Planet Earth. The effects of the drought on native plant life will surely be passed through the food chain and a reduction in natural cover may shift the balance in favor of predators, exacerbating the advantage that those hunters enjoy during the lean, frigid months of winter.