Wildlife 2060 - Habitat Isolation
Habitat isolation: islands in an urban sea
More than 2 million of 7 million acres projected to be developed by 2060 lie within a mile of existing public conservation lands. So, even though we've protected several million acres of wildlife management areas, parks, forests and preserves in Florida, these lands will become increasingly isolated from one another.
For wildlife, this means their remaining habitats will come to be islands within an urban sea. And these disconnected fragments of habitat will support reduced populations of animals and plants more vulnerable to extinction as their genetic viability declines.
Along with projected development, comes new roads that will splinter and dissect the Florida landscape. Animals with large home ranges, such as panthers or black bears, may be unable to move safely between shrinking patches of habitat.
What else will happen to wildlife as habitats are isolated by development?
It will become much more difficult and costly for land managers to maintain healthy habitats through natural ecological processes, such as prescribed fire and invasive plant management.
It just makes sense to protect what we can of Florida's remaining natural areas and minimize the effects of habitat fragmentation. Connecting large areas of conservation lands by protecting a series of natural or compatible agricultural areas makes a more functional landscape overall and will help our wildlife thrive in the future. We can follow the lead of Brevard County voters who supported a bond referendum to protect more than 10,000 acres of rare scrub habitat and the threatened Florida scrub-jays that live there.
More than a million acres of Florida's natural areas are infested by invasive nonnative plants such as Old World climbing fern, kudzu, and hundreds of others.
Photo Credit: Peggy Greb, USDA Agricultural Research Service.