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Desert Diary
Ecology/Carp Words


Ever hear local fishermen carp about carp? OK, so even though both the words are spelled and pronounced the same, they are different words with different meanings. Isn't English wonderful? One of the carp words means to find fault or complain, and is of Scandinavian origin. But its use in combination with the other carp word is quite appropriate, according to ecologists.

This other carp is an introduced fish now occurring in most of the United States and extending south into central Mexico. Like so many introduced species, carp tend to change ecological communities unused to them. Effects in our desert's Rio Grande are two-fold. By feeding directly on aquatic plants and stirring up bottom sediments by their rooting, carp activities have the effect of destroying the aquatic vegetation vital to many other animals. The rooting effect acts mostly indirectly by stirring up mud and thus reducing the amount of sunlight that's needed by aquatic plants for photosynthesis. And if you've ever looked at the Rio Grande closely, you know that the last thing it needs is more mud.
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Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

image of carp

Carp (Cyprinus carpio). Image by Duane Raver, courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.