How Hurricane Ian can affect Florida Wildlife Corridor

Hurricane Ian likely had a lot of impact on the fragmented landscapes in Florida’s Wildlife Corridor, and such storms underscore the need for redundancy in our ecosystem, says Jason Lauritsen, chief conservation officer for the Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation.

“If all of your biodiversity is locked up in a couple of patches and you get a really heavy storm say for instance that knocks out all the snags, it really impacts cavity-nesting birds, as an example,’’ he says, referring to woodpeckers, ducks, owls and other birds that nest in dead tree branches.
Lauritsen adds that “if you don’t have locally nearby healthy populations of cavity-nesting birds that can seed that patch…you’ll be missing those species for long periods of time.”

Flooding from hurricanes also spreads non-native species. 

“I know that the channeled apple snail, the non-native snails, will distribute widely after flooding events like this,’’ Lauritsen says.

But a possible silver lining to flooding, he notes, is that it temporarily makes up for the loss of shallow, seasonal wetlands.

“We drain those,” Lauritsen says. “Those are areas where we build on. So you have two protected wetland patches that would seasonally be connected through these ephemeral wetlands, those are gone from most of Florida’s landscape.”

When a hurricane like Ian hits, it will temporarily reconnect those wetlands, and that can increase the prey of wading birds, he says.

“So if you’re looking for a silver lining, maybe we can look for a really bumper crop of wading birds nesting this year,” Lauritsen says.
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Philip Morgan is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. He is an award-winning reporter who has covered news in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years. Phil grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He joined the Lakeland Ledger, where he covered police and city government. He spent 36 years as a reporter for the former Tampa Tribune. During his time at the Tribune, he covered welfare and courts and did investigative reporting before spending 30 years as a feature writer. He worked as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times for 12 years. He loves writing stories about interesting people, places and issues.