Few can forget the destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled the shorelines of the Eastern United States. For the tiny piping plover, however, the storm may have been a blessing in disguise.
Aerial view showing the new inlet on New York’s Fire Island and large areas of sand pushed over vegetation by Hurricane Sandy. Image generated from Google Earth.
The threatened shorebird, which migrates in spring to nest on sandy beaches along the Atlantic coast, is expected to capitalize on new habitat created by the storm on hard-hit Long Island, N.Y.
“Hurricane Sandy pushed sand over the vegetation of the barrier islands, leaving behind wider sandy beaches, which is the plover’s preferred habitat,” said Jim Fraser, a professor of wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, who has studied piping plovers and other shorebirds for almost three decades.
The bird was federally listed as threatened and endangered in 1986.
Hurricane Sandy in 2012 created three inlets on Long Island’s south shore, two of which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quickly filled. Fraser says he hopes the third inlet, in a designated wilderness area of Fire Island National Seashore, will remain open, as it is New York’s only natural inlet.
Long since the storm has passed, the inlet continues to shape the barrier islands, further improving plover habitat. The birds like to feed on insects and invertebrates that reside in intertidal flats — shallow, watery areas on the bay side of barrier islands.
Leaving the inlet open would not only be good for the piping plover, it would also be a smart move for taxpayers, according to Fraser. “Post-storm public works projects are incredibly expensive. Ultimately, the taxpayer ends up footing the bill.”
On precarious barrier islands, houses and other buildings are vulnerable to destruction. The sands shift constantly under normal conditions; superstorms like Sandy rearrange them dramatically.
“We live too close to the sea,” Fraser continued. “The human, structural, and environmental costs are very high, and they are increasing with each storm as coastal development shows no signs of abating.”
While storm damage affects humans negatively, it can have the opposite effect on wildlife. “Storm-created habitat is good for piping plovers and other birds,” explained Fraser. Other positive environment impacts have also been observed. “Local people say the fishing is better, clams are growing faster, and the water is cleaner.”
Fraser’s work studying piping plovers in other environments, including a 12-year observation in nearby West Hampton Dunes, N.Y., confirms that plover populations increase when new habitat is created on barrier islands after massive storms.
He expects to see plover populations on Long Island surge when the birds return this spring. His ongoing research is monitoring the outcome.
Related information can be found on the Virginia Tech News website.
Lynn Davis | Newswise
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy