Featured image: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones
The takeaway message:
Despite COVID-19 closures, some animal and plant research has remained operational throughout Florida. Land conservation plans continue to form around the state as well, although some parties are at odds.
What’s going on?
Despite COVID-19 rearranging many of Americans’ work environments, nature persists unphased. This requires some essential researchers to man their posts at labs across the state. In Pinellas County, for example, shorebird rehabilitators scrambled to nurture 53 birds found with symptoms of red tide in early April. Further north in Gainesville, some University of Florida laboratories are still receiving and processing samples, such as soil, insects, nematodes and plants.
Land management and purchasing plans have also proceeded across the state. In April, North Florida Land Trust, a nonprofit land preservation organization, received millions of dollars in federal funds to create what will be the “Ocala to Osceola Wildlife Corridor.” The 1.6 million acres will span 100 miles down the middle of Florida. In the same month, Hillsborough County commissioners paid $11.6 million to preserve 543 acres of open land. These parcels make up a larger conservation project that will join 10,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the area if completed. But next door in Pinellas County, conservation doesn’t come without a fight. Residents are currently waging a battle against a development group’s proposal to turn what used to be a golf course into a housing community because of “significant environmental concerns” cited by the planners. Not only does the property sport a variety of wildlife, but it also may contain fossils from early humans that would be compromised with development.
Why it matters.
Many labs have been forced closed recently, stunting some important research. But still, some labs that take care of live animals or need to process agricultural soil samples must maintain their work. Continuing to submit these samples is still as important as ever, researchers say, in order to correctly identify and mitigate problems and keep our food safe.
Conservation of natural lands is also imperative to not only biodiversity but also our own health. Gardens, green spaces and public parks can actually improve our psychological and physical health by cleaning the air and water, marking territories for wild animals and providing areas for exercise for humans. Tree canopy alone can lower temperatures in cities, aid water evaporation and clean pollutants from the air. On a smaller scale, biodiversity can be injected into our own homes through gardens. When gardens have more species of plants within them, more “microhabitats” are created for a larger variety of beneficial insects, which can decrease the amount of insecticides needed for pests.
What can I do?
- Record nature observations around your home to help scientific research.
- Submit plant, insect or soil samples to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- Protect yourself and others from COVID-19 by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advice for the public.
- About the Florida agencies that help manage our environment.
- About how ecosystem services benefit us and our environment.