Audubon Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Everglades Science,Invasive Species



New Research Shows Python’s Navigational Ability May Be Key to Its Invasion Success

If you know you’ll always be able to find your way back home, you’ll probably be more willing to explore and visit new places, right? Recent research conducted in the Everglades by a collaboration of university and federal scientists found that Burmese pythons have navigational map and compass senses that allow them to find their way home at a scale never before documented in snakes. This may spell bad news for the continued spread of pythons across our state.

DCIM100GOPROBurmese pythons captured in Everglades National Park were implanted with radio transmitters, released in suitable habitat 21-36 km from their capture locations, and tracked from aircraft. Five of six pythons returned to within 5 km of their capture location, moving a maximum of nearly 2 kilometers per day (compared to a control group that moved a maximum of 0.5 kilometers per day). While the navigational mechanism is not yet understood, reptiles are known to use magnetic, celestial, olfactory (smell), and polarized light cues.

This type of research is critical not only to understanding the behavior and potential for spread of pythons here in Florida, but also for better understanding invasive species ecology in general. Many of these species come from remote or poorly-studied parts of the world where their ecology in their native range is undescribed. Furthermore, species introduced to new areas often behave somewhat differently than they do in their native range. While most experts believe Burmese pythons are here to stay in South Florida, better understanding them can help limit their spread and teach us valuable lessons than can be applied to new invaders.

Audubon Scientists Find Progress One Year After C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component Ribbon-Cutting

The C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component Great colonies of wading birds, including signature species like the Roseate Spoonbill, once congregated on the shores of Florida Bay. The ultimate measurement of restoration success is bringing those colonies back. Increasing freshwater flows to Taylor Slough in the Southern Everglades will restore critical foraging habitat and Florida’s birds will respond by building nests and hatching and fledging chicks.

The C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component is a major restoration project designed to improve freshwater flows to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. The project creates a nine mile hydraulic ridge designed to hold rain water and natural flows into Taylor Slough, a critical flow-path that carries water through the heart of Everglades National Park into Florida Bay. Water is then able to sheet-flow and filter into the ground, rehydrating this historic wetland habitat.

Now just one year after the ribbon-cutting of this important Everglades restoration project, Audubon Florida scientists are already documenting habitat improvements.

Roseate SpoonbillsThe C-111 Spreader Canal Project includes two components. The first phase, the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component (phase one) has been operating for over a year, and the C-111 Spreader Canal Eastern Component (phase two) is still in the planning phase and will be completed in the future.

In the first year of operation, the Western Component has already improved flow and salinity conditions, which have led to improvement in the health and quality of wetland habitats in Florida Bay. This project is the first major constructed operational component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP was approved by Congress in 2000 to reverse the ecological decline observed in the Everglades and Florida Bay.

For more information, please click here to download our latest Fact Sheet on this important Everglades project.

May 17 Key Largo Gulf Consortium Meeting Wrap-Up

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Audubon was well represented at the May 17 Florida’s Gulf Counties Consortium meeting in Key Largo, where the Consortium heard updates on the agreement with the Governor’s Office and the Gulf Council restoration plan.  Gov. Scott is expected to sign the agreement which will define the role of the Governor’s Office and state agencies in working with the Consortium to develop Florida’s Oil Spill Restoration Impact Allocation Plan. Also known as the State Expenditure Plan, the plan will determine how “Pot 3” RESTORE funds are spent. The State’s plan must be approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

pete_presentation_keylargoPete Frezza, a research manager at Audubon’s Everglades Science Center in Tavernier, gave an insightful presentation on some of the problems facing Florida Bay, an important habitat for Florida’s wildlife and the larger Gulf ecosystem. Click here to see a copy of Pete’s presentation.

The Consortium also established a committee of the 15 counties from Jefferson to Monroe County to provide input on U.S. Treasury options on how to distribute Pot 1 RESTORE funds among the 15 counties.  A similar committee for the eight counties from Escambia to Wakulla was set up earlier.

Consortium members were briefed on the Florida Keys marine environment and how much influence Keys fish populations and other Keys resources have on other areas in the Gulf of Mexico.

Supervisor Connie Rockco, Harrison County, Missisippi Board of Supervisors, made a presentation and commented on how much coastal Mississippi has in common with coastal Florida.  She advocated for the formation of a Gulf state coastal consortium to exercise more influence with Congress on Gulf coastal issues.

All presentations made at the meeting are posted on the Florida Gulf Consortium web site.

Many of Florida’s Gulf coastal counties have formed advisory committees to help shape local priorities for Gulf restoration funds.  Your participation in these committee meetings is important to guide local restoration funds to critical Gulf environmental resources and wildlife.  If you have information on your local committee meetings, please email jwebber@audubon.org so that it can be included on Audubon’s RESTORE Calendar.

This Is What Progress in the Everglades Looks Like

posted on January 16, 2013 in Everglades,Everglades Science

New restoration project delivering needed freshwater to Florida Bay.

Roseate spoonbills and other shorebirds hunt on the mud flats during low tidesAudubon’s Everglades Science Team was on hand at the January 11 ribbon cutting ceremony for the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project in the Southern Everglades where it became the first Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan project to be completed.

Using detention basins and pumps, this new project will increase freshwater levels near Everglades National Park and help retain water in Taylor Slough, where it will flow to parched Florida Bay rather than seeping out of the park to the massive C-111 canal.

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Since 1938, researchers at Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center in the Florida Keys have collected data to help understand the decline of wading birds like the Roseate Spoonbill. The research collected over the decades helped bring the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project to life.

Special thanks must go to the South Florida Water Management District for recognizing Audubon’s calls to expedite and fund this critical Everglades restoration goal ahead of schedule.

Over the years, Audubon’s Tavernier Science Center has evolved to study not only birds, but also the submerged grasses and water quality affecting their food supply of prey fish. Now under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Lorenz, Audubon’s research program has led to the scientific understanding necessary to make restoration progress like the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project possible.

The remarkable wildlife of the Southern Everglades – including iconic Roseate Spoonbills and other wading birds – will benefit from the improved conditions made possible by the completion of this new project. Now that the pumps are turned on, Audubon will be working to ensure this project delivers the ecosystem benefits it is capable of producing.

This is what progress in the Everglades looks like:

Audubon_C111_BeforeAfter

Audubon Mourns the Passing of John C. Ogden

posted on April 2, 2012 in Chapters,Everglades,Everglades Science

In some sad news, former National Audubon Society Director of Ornithology John C. Ogden passed away over the weekend. John worked for Audubon twice – In 1974 he began a 14-year stint as National Audubon’s senior research biologist and director of the Ornithological Research Unit in Tavernier. There he conducted long-term ecological studies of wetland vertebrates while overseeing NAS’s national avian research programs in Maine, New York, Florida, Texas, and California.

Ogden spent the first half of the 1980s in California, where he co-directed the California Condor Research and Recovery Program for NAS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. From 1988 to 1995, he was senior research scientist for the National Park Service at Everglades National Park, serving on multi-agency technical planning teams dealing with Everglades restoration. He signed on with the SFWMD in 1995, working as the senior ecosystem restoration scientist for twelve years and incorporating science and the concept of adaptive management into Everglades restoration planning.  He returned in 2007 to Audubon as Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon of Florida. There John shifted Audubon’s approach to Everglades restoration toward ecological results. He used his position to make the case to state and federal agencies that a new ecological approach to Everglades restoration planning was needed.

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said, “John Ogden’s love of birds and the Everglades and his commitment to science influenced everyone he worked with.  His passion and approach will not be forgotten.

Miami Herald: Audubon Scientists See “Flash of Pink Hope” for Roseate Spoonbills

posted on February 16, 2012 in Everglades Science,Florida Bay

Roseate Spoonbills, one of the most iconic and recognizable birds of Florida have recently received some encouraging press from Audubon Everglades Scientists in Florida Bay. After last year’s disastrous breeding season, it seems the beautiful birds are showing some positive signs of return.

From the Miami Herald:

But [Roseate Spoonbill] its striking appearance is not why National Audubon Society scientists like Jerry Lorenz have spent nearly 80 years monitoring the bird’s habits in a shallow bay wedged between the southern the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

The spoonbill, which nests on mangrove islands, serves as something of a flying barometer of the health of the bay and the Everglades system that flows into it. So a sudden, mysterious plunge in nesting last year to the lowest numbers in more than a half century had Lorenz and fellow scientists anxious about what might unfold this year.

The prognosis midway through breeding season: Spoonbills are back — though still in numbers far too small to suggest its future is rosy in the bay.

“I’m encouraged,’’ said Lorenz, after snaking through mangroves to check spoonbill nests on an island near Audubon’s research lab in Tavernier. “Last year, we had a massive abandonment of Florida Bay and I have no idea why. I’m hoping it was just a weird blip.’’

For more information, please click here.

If You Had the Power to Keep Roseate Spoonbills Nesting in the Everglades, Would You?

posted on November 23, 2011 in Everglades,Everglades Science,Florida Bay

That is the question Audubon’s Dr. Jerry Lorenz faces every day as he leads a band of researchers into marshes and mangrove swamps to monitor the results of Everglades restoration.

Scientists are on the verge of demonstrating that freshwater flows are critical to the success of wading birds in the Everglades. But now dramatic cuts in government funds are cutting off the money Jerry and his science team need to keep going.

To replace those lost funds, Audubon needs to raise $35,500 from people who care about the wildlife of the Everglades.

Your contribution will keep these hardworking scientists in the field gathering the data we need to protect Everglades wildlife.

"Spoonbill Lagoon" by Peter R. Gerbert

Everglades restoration depends on sound science. You can help Jerry and his research team today.

Your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar by a foundation that has encouraged Audubon to focus on the science needed for Everglades restoration.

As an added bonus, the first ten donations of $275 or more will receive a signed, limited edition print of the beautiful painting Spoonbill Lagoon – a gorgeous holiday gift for yourself or the nature-lover you know.


The Everglades Needs Your Help Today

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The New York Times calls it a “good deal for the Everglades” and newspapers across Florida are weighing in to support the state purchase of U.S. Sugar land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Earlier this month, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board voted unanimously to extend the contract deadline to purchase these lands, keeping the vision of achieving Everglades restoration alive.

arrow_rightBut Florida lawmakers need to hear from you today. Lawmakers are being asked to scuttle this purchase and push back Everglades restoration for another generation.

Here’s what newspapers are saying:

A Good Deal for the Everglades
What the taxpayers need to remember is that this is a very good deal for the environment.
…some of those projects — a string of underground storage wells, for instance — made little sense to begin with and none are as important as the land deal.

New York Times Editorial, March 17, 2010

Extend U.S. Sugar Deal Deadline
…the deal’s biggest selling point is its huge value in taking so much land out of sugar production and putting it in the public’s hands forever. Such a chance might never come again.
Putting the brakes on the U.S. Sugar acquisition would cast a pall over the newfound, justified optimism that one day the Everglades will again be a true “River of Grass.”

Miami Herald Editorial, March 11, 2010

U.S. Sugar Land Deal Worth Keeping Alive
…the move is a historic opportunity to return the natural water flow to South Florida.
…taking control of land south of Lake Okeechobee appears to be a better strategy for holding and cleaning the southward water flow than a highly engineered network of wells.
…this land purchase remains a remarkable opportunity for long-term progress if the ultimate price is fair and the public finances work.

St. Pete Times Editorial, March 12, 2010

Proceed Carefully with Glades
…does offer a rare opportunity to undertake a far more effective restoration effort than would be possible otherwise.
The project will create thousands of construction jobs, help clean Florida Bay, provide an adequate water supply for South Florida and save the Everglades. All are worthy goals.

Tampa Tribune Editorial, March 10, 2010

Here’s what we are saying:

When It Comes to Cleaning Up the Everglades, Don’t Mess Up a Good Deal For Taxpayers

Save Tax Dollars
The current proposal by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to buy 73,000 acres will save taxpayers money in the long run. It will reduce the need for numerous “micro” projects and avoid potential condemnation takings, which will cost taxpayers millions more than the current deal.

No New Taxes
The current SFWMD proposal buys the land at near rock-bottom prices and has an opt-out clause if current funding sources will not fund the purchase.  In short, taxes will not be raised to make this purchase.

More Effective Glades Cleanup
Large land purchase and use of broad swaths of land will be a far more effective solution than scattered projects.

Supported By Independent Groups
In addition to numerous news outlets, including the New York Times, St. Pete Times, Miami Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, this proposal is strongly supported by virtually every consumer, citizens and environmental organization in the state.

Clean Water For South Florida
The only serious way to scrub ground water is via large tracts of land, and this proposal does just that. As a result, it will help heal the River of Grass and provide clean water for South Florida for generations to come.

A Jobs Generator
This purchase will help move forward thousands of construction jobs almost immediately and will preserve our tourist economy in the Glades and in the Keys for generations to come.

No Wonder It’s Being Called

“A Remarkable Opportunity”
“A Historic Opportunity”
“A Rare Opportunity”
“A Good Deal For the Everglades”

arrow_rightWrite to your state Legislators today in support of this critical land acquisition.

For more information on the benefits of the monumental River of Grass acquisition, view Audubon of Florida’s fact sheet “River of Grass Land Acquisition: Securing Florida’s Future for People and Nature.”

Climate Peril to Birds Demands Action in Florida

ROYT chick  Linda
This Royal Tern chick was photographed by Linda Martino at Huguenot Memorial Park in Jacksonville in summer 2009. Audubon is working in Northeast Florida to protect these birds and others from human disturbance and to conserve their important beach habitat. Notice where the chick is standing: Young Royal Terns do not thermo-regulate well and so being able to sit undisturbed at the water’s edge helps them keep cool.

Statement of Audubon of Florida on the 2010 State of the Birds Report

The 2010 State of the Birds Report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon and other leading conservation organizations shows that climate change will have an increasing impact on birds and their habitat—and the ecological and other benefits they provide to people. It issues an urgent call for sound energy policy that will reduce carbon emissions, and for strategic conservation investments that will help species adapt to a changing climate. If we can help the birds weather this unprecedented threat, we can help ourselves.

In Florida, some of the most threatened birds include coastal species, such as the red knot and royal tern. The Florida scrub-jay, our state’s only endemic species, as well as the ruby-throated hummingbird, prothonotary warbler and roseate spoonbill, are all at risk from climate-induced habitat changes.

“The report makes it clear that these birds will not survive the human-caused changes to our global climate,” said Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon of Florida. “Like canaries in a coal mine, the dangers they face warn of dangers to us as well. It’s up to us to reduce the threat.”

Everglades restoration that achieves ecological benefits, protection of our important beaches and coastal habitats, and putting meaningful renewable energy and energy and water conservation policies into place are all winning strategies that Audubon of Florida is working hard to achieve.

What Florida Audubon is doing complements innovative federal efforts to help species adapt; efforts that come with new investments that will create jobs and protect beautiful and sensitive habitats across America. And we’re part of ongoing Audubon efforts to pass ground-breaking climate and energy legislation to control the emissions that cause climate change while there’s still time to make a difference.”

As Glenn Olson of the National Audubon Society said at the news conference announcing the findings, “If you love nature and care about the health of our planet, there is no time to lose. This isn’t just about birds; it’s about our chance to shape our future.”

Legislative Session 2010: Stay Informed with the Advocate

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Legislative Session 2010 is upon us. One of the best ways to stay informed during these next few, fast-paced months is with the Advocate and the Florida Conservation Network. Subscribing to the Advocate is free and it gives you the timely information to help make a difference on behalf of Florida’s economy and environment. Know what is going on and how you can personally make a difference.

Check out the latest Advocate released last week. Subscribe to the Advocate and receive it automatically. What you will find in last week’s Advocate:

  •  Florida Springs Day Takes Over Capitol
  •  Florida Forever and Everglades Funding
  •  Water Quality Legislation
  •  Jobs For Florida–What’s Really at Stake?
  •  House Continues to Consider Nearshore Drilling
  •  Unfinished Business with Renewable Energy
  •  Bills That Address the Python Issue

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