By: Katherine Millican
The tropical storm named Hurricane Ida worked its way across the eastern United States since first making landfall in Louisiana on August 30th. Not only has this storm taken the lives of at least 80 people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage, it has also caused wildlife to head for the hills-literally. In the event of flooding, animals such as black bears, alligators, venomous and non venomous snakes, wild hogs, and deer will trek to higher ground to survive. Unfortunately, this higher ground is already occupied by our cities, homes, and highways, pushing these animals into the paths of unsuspecting residents and drivers. This is not only dangerous for the humans, but also for the animals who were unwillingly pushed out of their natural habitats. This will also mean that these animals will have a hard time finding the elements essential for their survival: food, fresh water, and shelter. The places they do look to find these things will most likely be occupied by people, many of whom have the unfortunate misconception that these animals are inherently dangerous. That is not to say that they AREN’T dangerous--by all means avoid crossing paths with free roaming bears and alligators whenever possible-- however, most of the time these animals are just acting out of fear for their own safety or for protection of their young. In any case, close contact with wild animals is unpredictable and should be avoided. And speaking of young, Hurricane Ida has come at the perfect time of year when black bear cubs are about 6-8 months old, as the birthing season for black bears is usually from January to early spring. The impact of the flooding and the forced interaction with humans could be extremely dangerous for the cubs, and as a result, detrimental to future black bear populations. The flood waters also bring fish, turtles, and other marine animals along in their currents, and often leave them out to dry when they recede. Although these areas can appear extremely morbid, they do come with a silver lining. The organic matter will be scavenged and provide important nutrients for animals in the ecosystem. Surviving fish and small aquatic animals can flourish in the waters with uncharacteristically low predator concentrations and rejuvenate the ecosystem in a relatively short period of time. The environment is pretty resilient, but if climate change continues to worsen, it will no longer be such a simple fix. All in all, the damage caused by Hurricane Ida and the effects it has on wildlife will be felt for many years to come.
Why we should care? The preservation of biodiversity will have lasting effects on the future of the planet as a whole. Even removing just one species from an ecosystem can have a butterfly effect on all the rest.
I found this article interesting because it discusses fish kills as after effects of hurricanes and what it means for the ecosystem. Fish kills are groups of deceased fish that were left stranded when flood waters recede. They can also be caused by large amounts of decomposing matter in the weeks after a storm being washed into the water system, depleting the oxygen levels and “suffocating” the fish. Although sad, the author also mentions that the fish carcass provide food for scavengers in the area like birds, racoons, and alligators, and the long term effects of these kills are a replenished ecosystem, due to low concentrations of aquatic predators and more available resources come spring. I liked learning about this because it is nice to know that these kind of ecosystems work in a cycle, where the deaths of one organism can provide nutrients for others leading to a replenished system.
Science in Action.
Dr. Francis Masse is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Northumbria University in Newcastle England.
Dr. Francis Masse has done research about political ecology and geology, and focuses on the interactions between humans and wildlife with a focus on wildlife crime and poaching. In 2016, Dr. Masse did a research study in Mozambique Africa on wildlife displacement and how it was affecting the residents and their livestock. In this case, it wasn’t natural causes such as flooding that was displacing the wildlife, it was the creation of a park that wildlife were being moved to that contained communities of people. This research is relevant to my topic because it focuses on human-wildlife interaction and the outcomes and potential dangers for both the people living there and for the animals themselves. In both this case and in the case of Hurricane Ida, it is unfortunate that in an effort to survive, the animals end up in potentially more dangerous situations that come from interacting with humans.
The picture of the bear and it's children on the highway was really eye-opening. It gives the reality of wildlife displacement a face. You can't really imagine how terrified these animals must be, they're removed from their homes with nowhere to go. There should be some kind of task force or group of people who are in charge of relocating displaced wildlife when something causes them to lose their home.
It's terrible that so many animals are displaced and thus are facing risks to their lives and livelihood. It is interesting though, that while this is happening, fish populations are able to thrive without predators. It is interesting how ecosystems really do operate in a circle.
Animals being pushed out of their natural habitat is a huge problem when floods force them to higher ground. I'm sure that forcing all the wildlife to live in one confined area causes the ecosystem to become unbalanced. When they are pushed into cities, animals have irregular surroundings and pose a danger to humans by no fault of their own.
I never thought about cities being on the high ground being a factor in stopping animals from getting to shelter properly. But it is nice to hear that even with a horrible situation comes an ecosystem revival due to the nutrients the displaced fish will give.
I most often feel as though news reports focus on the impact that the Hurricanes have had on human life, but not enough on how it affects our wildlife. The picture above gives a really good example on what these floods cause. The bears are forced out of their environment and into a very dangerous situation. Most people are afraid of bears and act rash when dealing with them. I am happy to see the cars were stopped, but it still should not be a situation they are forced into. It feels like floods are happening more often and with them comes more harm to the environment. It also takes time for an environment to replenish itself, and with how often these are occurring, the environment won't be able to bounce back. Since these animals' homes are being ruined they have to move into spaces populated by humans. I think something we as a society should start implementing is more wildlife crossing areas. Like the arches that go over highways and even adding spaces on higher ground for wildlife. It may cost a lot of money, but these sightings of animals in city spaces is becoming more frequent. So for our safety and the animals it would be beneficial.
I never thought about how displaced animals during natural disasters could be a sort of negative feedback loop. The flooding hurt the ecosystem by drowning and displacing native species, but the flooding also brought along aquatic organisms whose organic matter could restore the populations of native species back to where it had been pre-disaster. Obviously, the increasing rate and intensity at which natural disasters are happening is still an overall threat to biodiversity across the world, but that fact was really interesting.
As the amount of land habitable grows smaller, more and more animals will be forced to relocate or risk death. As we’re often told, wild animals are more scared of you than you are of them, and I can’t imagine how bad the situation must be for them to be willingly entering areas that have a high concentration of people.
It is interesting to learn about the displacement of animals due to flooding. It is not something that is inherently obvious to think about, but still has adverse consequences on ecosystems. I think it will be compounded even more with sea levels rising. Where will these animals go once their habitat shrinks in addition to flooding? It's a modern issue that must be considered by ecologists. It's also interesting to see the different ways aquatic organisms can affect terrestrial ecosystems once things dry up. I never considered the impact they could have on terrestrial ecosystems.
It is interesting to read about the disruption in the ecosystem due to hurricanes as opposed to what we typically see on news reports, which is the direct impacts to us as humans. It goes without saying that it is devastating to us and our communities, but we don't always look beyond that in these events that are so catastrophic. The scope of damage from Hurricane Ida reminds myself of the shock of Hurricane Katrina, back when I was only eleven years of age. Being one the first natural disasters that I could comprehend the damage done by it, it cemented in my mind.
To me, this is the most interesting part of natural disasters. Although it is quite obvious how these events effect humans, the effect that hurricanes have on biodiversity is not talked about nearly as much. Like you mentioned, even if just one species is effected, it changes the entire ecosystem. I found this article very fascinating and I really enjoyed reading it.
I find this topic interesting because it shows how the effects of climate change will continue to shift the entire biosphere. As the weather patterns of the Earth change faster than the flora and fauna can evolve to keep up, mass extinctions are inevitable.
This post made me so sad, the picture broke my heart. It is so sad that humans have taken up so much of the land that animals cannot move somewhere else to save themselves. Also, since the hurricane was big and had such a big impact on the land it went through. There are too major problems that should be addressed here: the altering of habitats and the effects of global warming. It is articles like the one with the bear cubs and mom bear that really show what we are doing to the planet and how it affects everything around us. I like the fact that you added how there is a bright side after the storm-- literally. It reminds you that the systems on the earth are all interconnected and will eventually rebound from disaster.
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