Nov 05, 2012

USA Today Article on Hurricane Sandy and Refuges

USA Today published an article about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on national wildlife refuges and migrating birds.

One of the biggest fears is that Sandy’s heavy ocean surges pushed salt water from the Atlantic Ocean into coastal freshwater refuges, which are vital rest stops for migrating birds.

“A freshwater marsh is a precious commodity,” [Dan] Ashe said, adding that a deluge of salt water “removes the habitat for the migrating species. So it has an immediate impact. Secondly, it opens up the possibility of invasive species coming into these environments, both vegetative species and invertebrates.”

The latter effect could alter food sources for birds and affect future migration…

Fish and Wildlife Director Ashe said he is especially concerned about the impact of Sandy on “marginal” species whose numbers have been falling, like the American Oyster Catcher, which has been the focus of several decades of population-improvement efforts. About 1,000 birds were in refuges along the New Jersey shore when the storm hit. Biologists are still assessing what happened to them.

Ashe said wildlife scientists are bracing for more mega-weather events.

“Whether it is Hurricane Sandy or drought in the Southwest or fires in the West and Midwest, this kind of large-scale disturbance” is a “more frequent facet of wildlife management,” Ashe said.

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