Impact of hurricanes on Florida wildlife
Effects on sea turtle and seabird habitats
Impact of hurricanes on marine fauna
When hurricanes make landfall, they can have significant effects on all forms of wildlife. In Florida, sea turtles and seabirds are especially vulnerable. The powerful hurricanes that hit the Sunshine State can be devastating, but the impacts of the most recent storms have not been as damaging as expected.
Effects of Storm Ian
“Ian’s storm surge had a major impact on both of our islands, Sanibel and Captiva,” said Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Coastal Wildlife Director. “We had a data logger at one of our sea turtle nests during the hurricane that recorded a storm surge 12 feet above the eggs.”
Despite expectations of significant habitat changes, not much erosion occurred after the storm. “We saw some very deep grooves forming that provided good habitat for our shorebirds,” he continued. “They were able to come and forage for food and get high-quality food.”
Impacts on terrestrial and aerial fauna
Affects on dune vegetation and nesting fauna on the beach
Additionally, there has been some die-off of dune vegetation affecting sea turtles and other beach-nesting wildlife, but “overall, it hasn’t been as bad as we expected.”
Displacement of flamingos after Hurricane Idalia
Spectacular images of flamingos ending up in areas from Florida to Wisconsin have been seen following Hurricane Idalia. This is a cause for concern because they have been moved to a location that is neither warm nor tropical.
“There may be broad impacts that we are not immediately considering when birds are driven from their natural habitat,” the Director said. “But we’ll have to see how they adjust to their new location here in Florida.”
Impact on large animals.
Even large animals can be affected by hurricanes. This was the case after Hurricane Idalia pushed water inland, taking manatees with it.
“It was a terrible storm in the sense that it moved a lot of water over land, causing massive flooding,” said the aquatic biologist and executive director of the Save the Manatee Club. “Manatees are pretty well adapted to deal with this. But at the same time, they move inland and get trapped when the water recedes.”
Adaptation of coastal fauna to hurricanes
“Coastal wildlife in general is well adapted to hurricanes because they live in places where hurricanes occur regularly,” said the Director. “Manatees, sea turtles, dolphins, they’ve all adapted ways to survive during hurricanes.”
He said that although there would be some mortality, they would be able to get to safety if a storm approached. “Sometimes they can dive deeper,” he continued. “They can sense a storm approaching and move. “Things like that can help them survive.”