The Other Side of the Stick
Ambience: surf, wind
Fraser: So, we’re here studying the piping plover, which is a small shorebird. It’s on the threatened list. In this particular study, we’re trying to understand the effects of the habitat changes caused by Hurricane Sandy on the habitats that it uses on Fire Island National Seashore.
Metzner: There’s an old saying that there’s two sides to every stick. In ecological terms that translates to what’s beneficial for humans isn’t always so great for other species. The aftermath of a big storm is a case in point. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse ecologyof the Planet.
Jim Fraser is a Professor of Wildlife Conservation.
Fraser: Sandy flattened some of these dunes so the beach is quite flat and very wide, and and these piping plovers like to next on a wide beach because it makes predators search larger distances in order to find them, and they’re much more likely to be able to elude predators if they’re on a very wide beach. And not only that, but you can see here where we’re next to the dunes the water comes right up to the dune. So, if a bird laid a nest here, it would be washed away at high tide. When we move down the beach a little bit farther, you’ll see that the birds can get much farther from the sea, and they won’t be washed away, in most cases.
Well, Hurricane Sandy created a lot of really good habitat, and we’re expecting these that the plover population, just locally here, will increase over the next few years in response to that improvement in the habitat.
The big story about Hurricane Sandy, from the human perspective, was people’s houses being damaged, people’s property being damaged, but with piping plovers, it’s rather different. The hurricane changes the habitats in ways that are good for piping plovers. So, while people prefer not to have their beaches overwashed and, certainly, not to have their houses and roads overwashed, piping plovers really benefit by that because when the beach overwashes, it provides a flat wet sand area, and that’s a good breeding ground for insects, and the piping plovers eat those insects.
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