Florida News Connection

April 16, 2024Available files: mp3 wav jpg

FL Wildlife Corridor study reveals role in climate resilience, population growth

Trimmel Gomes

As the Sunshine State grapples with rising temperatures and escalating weather events such as hurricanes, a new study sheds light on the pivotal role of Florida's Wildlife Corridor in mitigating the effects of climate change coupled with a surge of new residents.

The report is trumpeted as a first-of-its-kind study showcasing how the 18 million acres of the Wildlife Corridor, which runs throughout the entire state, ease the worst impact of climate change. It paints a picture of investing in resources supporting cohabitation to be mutually beneficial with nature and the economic growth coming from people who flock to the state to enjoy it.

Colin Polsky, professor and founding director of the School of Environmental, Coastal and Ocean Sustainability at Florida Atlantic University, and the study's lead author, said the corridor benefits the state.

"It's an attempt to welcome the 1,000 people a day approximately who move to Florida, but to do so in a way that allows for the wildlife to continue to thrive," Polsky explained.

About 10 million of the 18 million acres of corridor are permanently conserved. The report calls on state leaders to keep working on investing the remaining 8 million. In March, the governor and Cabinet touted the state's largest investment in decades, a 25,000-acre acquisition within the Caloosahatchee-Big Cypress Corridor.

Joshua Daskin, project manager and director of conservation at the Archbold Biological Station, said since the corridor effort was steering billions of dollars toward land conservation in the state, the report's focus is on showing the science behind it all.

"Climate resilience is one area in which land conservation can help both nature and people," Daskin pointed out. "But no one had assembled the state of the science for all of the ways that climate resilience can be impacted by land conservation."

The report shows 24% of all Florida properties have a more than one in four chance of being affected by flooding in the next 30 years. To combat it, one solution is to keep floodplains undeveloped. The corridors have 10 million acres of floodplain. The report also recommends mixed-use development to minimize habitat fragmentation and keep working lands in production.