Distribution and Abundance of Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) and Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus) on the West Coast of Florida Before and After the 2004/2005 Hurricane Seasons
AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY
Pagination or Media Count:
In 2004 and 2005 several large hurricanes category 3 or greater made landfall along Floridas barrier island shorelines. Where shorelines were developed, storms did millions of dollars in structural damage. Where previous shoreline protection had occurred in the form of beach nourishment or dune restoration, much of this sand was removed. On public lands, overwash from storms removed beach and dune vegetation, redistributed sand, created new inlets, and in some cases, caused damage to park roads and facilities. Large federal and state appropriations for post-storm shoreline protection ushered in the busiest period of sand placement in Florida history. Floridas Panhandle and Southwest Gulf Coast host large proportions of continental non-breeding populations for both federally-listed Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus and state-threatened Snowy Plovers Charadrius alexandrinus. These two regions also contain the majority of Snowy Plover pairs nesting along the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This report compares the distribution of plovers and engineering projects before and after the 20042005 hurricane seasons. Counts were similar between pre- and post-storm surveys and bird distribution did not change appreciably between the two periods. However, this investigation illustrated a strong negative correlation between sand placement and the presence of both plover species. Future research should clarify if the negative correlation between sand placement and plovers is the result of habitat degradation that can be directly attributed to sand placement, and perhaps mitigated, or the tendency for sand placement projects to occur in areas of high population density where human disturbance may limit the distribution of plovers.