Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009. CLIMATE CHANGE

I'm really excited that Jen On The Edge has invited me to be a part of this year's Blog Action Day.

Little Miss Sunshine State is the name I've given myself and my blog because there is so much I love about living in Florida. I have always enjoyed seeing wildlife and sea life up close. In Massachusetts, I saw coyotes and foxes up close. I've been on whale watches where I've seen dozens of whales in a single day.

Since we moved to Florida three years ago I've been excited and awed by animals I've never seen before. The blog topic this year has made me think about how these beautiful animals could be affected by a climate change.

I saw almost 100 manatees in one day at Blue Springs State Park in January of 2008. When the winter temperatures in Florida go down to the 40's, manatees swim from the shore, up through rivers to warm water springs. Manatees have the ability to adjust to changes in salinity. Because they like to be in warm water, people mistakenly think an increase in temperatures due to climate change wouldn't affect manatees.

Seagrass is the primary food for manatees. If the sea level and sea temperature change, it could cause a decrease in the amount of seagrass available. If sea levels rise, people living along the coast would want to build seawalls to keep their property from eroding. The seawalls could block the normal channels that the manatees use to get to riverways in cold winter temperatures. These new routes that manatees would have to use may not have "Manatee Safety Speed Zones" and there is an increased risk of injury and death caused by motorboat propellors.

For more information on preservation of the manatees, you can visit Save The Manatee or the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Sirenia Project.

There are about 9,000 alligators living in Lake Jessup in Sanford Florida. Lake Jessup is 10,000 acres of lake that is only 5 feet deep in the winter. The water levels in the lake get so much lower in the summer now, that the boats that go out to observe the alligators can't get to them. The day in January 2009 that I took this picture we saw dozens of alligators. They are cold-blooded creatures that can't control their body temperatures in extreme heat.
The sex of baby alligators is determined by the temperature in the nests where the eggs are laid. If marsh temperatures become too high, it will tip the balance of male to female alligators in the population. This will affect birth rates.
There is more information at EcoFlorida Magazine.

I love these little lizards (anoles) that run around the sidewalks and sun themselves on the side of our porches and houses. They regulate their body temperature by the exchange of heat with their surroundings. If the air temperature were to be increased by 20-25 degrees, this would impair the ability of the anoles to adapt to their surroundings. Scientists have already noticed changes in small lizards in Costa Rica.
Anoles in increased temperature have a decreased ability to sprint away from the birds that prey on them. The US Global Change Research Program is collecting data and federal research concerning global climate change. Changes now being seen in South America can be predictors of future changes in Tropical and Sub-tropical Florida.
I saw this owl on the campus of the University of Central Florida about 10 days ago. He was MAGNIFICENT! I was about 12 feet away from him and thought he was easily 20 to 24 inches tall. Owls are not as endangered by the climate changes we can expect in the coming years.
Florida is a winter breeding ground for Great Horned Owls. If the winter temperatures in Central Florida were to be significantly increased, the owls would not come as far south to have their offspring.
The American Bird Conservancy is a charitable organization with a mission to conserve wild birds and their habitats.
I will continue to care about the future of wildlife and sealife in Florida. I want to keep seeing them when I go to parks and the beach. It's part of what makes me so happy to live here. I want to be able to show these animals to my grandchildren.


Jen on the Edge said...

Wonderful post! I had no idea that temperatures affect gator breeding.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I knew that amphibians are first affected by environmental changes, but this was VERY educational reading. Wow.