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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Belfer

Home Sweet Home

As we begin to pieces together our homes and lives after a serious natural disaster, let's also take the time to understand how these storms also affect the homes and lives of our coastal brethren. From the migrating birds and marine mammals, to the hatchling sea turtles, to the estuary fish and shellfish, their lives are also changed by these storms.

Migrating species do not stay in one place too long. They are here for a season and then they are gone. Sometimes they will be here to nest, to feed on specific prey, or to mate. During their short visit to the coastal region, their lives are impacted by these storms. Migrating birds may choose to nest on the beaches or in the canopy of tall trees. When a storm comes ashore, the beach is compromised by a surge of water and trees may fall by the force of wind, leaving no evidence a nest was even there.

Piping Plover chick on the beach.

Right in the middle of hurricane season is sea turtle nesting/hatching season. It's no wonder why these massive reptiles lay between 80 and 120 eggs per clutch! When these nests are laid, they may be protected some two feet down from our trampling feet on the beach, but that doesn't stop the power of a storm. Surges of water can erode away an entire beach, including several feet of a nest. Because their eggs cannot withstand overwash and sitting in water for too long (the babies will drown), most of these nests are compromised during a storm.

Green sea turtle hatchling on the beach.

In the estuary, especially along the southeastern U.S. where hurricanes frequent, oysters are a prominent shellfish. One small two-inch oyster can filter out 50 gallons of water per day! Yet, when storms threaten the lagoon ecosystem, these important species are pulled from the substrate by the force of wind and water. Once they are taken from the sand, it is difficult (if not impossible) for them to reattach themselves as adults. These oyster beds can house many juvenile species escaping predators throughout the estuary. Without them, they are easy targets.

At one or more stages of these species' life cycle, they call the coastal ecosystem their home. Just as our lives are changed when a hurricane or tropical storm comes knocking on our door, their lives are altered greatly by the effects of these storms. After we rebuild our own homes, we must also rebuild theirs.

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