Welcome to the new season of Nature Stories: Winds of Change. Aa major hurricane hitting a population center has triggered curiosity about its impact on wildlife. Before we get into that, though, I want to show just how devastating a hurricane can be.
The ‘Winds of Change’ series started as a question about hurricanes and wildlife. But could the question itself have been flawed?
Alligators and crocodiles are large apex predators. They have similar forms, but in Florida they live in different places. What commonalities are there in their response to hurricanes? And what differences?
A hurricane can have so many potential ripple effects, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of luck whether certain species do well or poorly. And that matters because we rely on some of them for our own survival.
If you could go anywhere to avoid a hurricane, where would you pick? One of the safest places is the deeper ocean, far from the wind and wave action. We can’t go there, but some animals can, and yet some choose not to.
Our exploration of the effects of hurricanes on wildlife has focused mostly on terrestrial systems. This is understandable, as humans are terrestrial ourselves. It’s much more challenging to observe freshwater or marine species because they spend their lives underwater, which we can’t breathe.
We’re going to look at animals that either make or use burrows. Because of the nature of water to seek the lowest point, these are some of the most vulnerable organisms of all when it comes to hurricanes.
Birds are probably one of the most mobile groups of animals. When it comes to hurricanes, they don’t, necessarily, have to ‘sit around and take it.’
Trees are big and memorable, and can cause a lot of damage when they come down in a storm, but they’re only a small piece of the proverbial plant puzzle.
Before we start discussing the various types of animals and hurricane impacts on them, we should look at the effect of these storms on plants. We’ll start with a look at various different types of trees.