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Spring 2021

Jewel THE

of Sanibel

Red Tide Impacts on Sea Turtles — 7 Building Coastal Resilience — 10


Spring 2021

Connecting You to Nature is published by SCCF, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) founded in 1967 on Sanibel Island, Florida. Through stories about how we fulfill our mission to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems, we hope to deepen your understanding of how our land, water, and wildlife depend on our stewardship. Ryan Orgera, CEO Barbara Linstrom, Editor Doug Cook, Design CONTRIBUTING WRITERS James Evans, Jenny Evans, Nicole Finnicum, Chris Lechowicz, Barbara Linstrom, Eric Milbrandt, Luke Miller, Kelly Sloan CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Shane Antalick, Ruth Brooks, Karl Werner SPONSORING PARTNERS Bailey's General Store Uhler & Vertich Financial Planners OPEN TO THE PUBLIC Native Landscapes & Garden Center at Bailey Homestead Preserve 1300 Periwinkle Way (239) 472-1932 Sanibel Sea School 455 Periwinkle Way (239) 472-8585 Main Office (239) 472-2329 SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline (978) 728-3663 Shorebird Inquiries shorebirds@sccf.org www.sccf.org | info@sccf.org P.O. Box 839, Sanibel, FL 33957

With your help, SCCF's good work goes on! As we enter the last quarter of SCCF’s fiscal year ending on June 30, there is a great deal of solid mission-driven work to celebrate and share in this issue with our valued members and neighbors. There is also, however, a significant need to ask again for your tax-deductible gifts to our Annual Fund Drive before the fiscal year ends in a few short months. Embracing COVID-19 safety standards, we will not meet our budgeted income goals due to canceled fundraising events and lost tuition fees. You can help SCCF bridge that funding gap in our Fiscal Year 2020-2021 operating budget by using the enclosed reply envelope to make your most generous taxdeductible contribution. Please call Development Director Cheryl Giattini at (239) 822-6121 with any questions you may have about SCCF’s needs or how you can help. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this sincere request for your support. HOW YOU CAN HELP

Please become a member or renew your membership by using the enclosed envelope or donating at www.sccf.org

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elcome to the Spring 2021 edition of Connecting You to Nature. We are excited and grateful that you are interested in our work. While the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented untold challenges, it has also shed an even brighter light on the importance of the great outdoors, our most valuable refuge in this socially distanced era. Thanks to your dedicated generosity and support, SCCF continues to protect and care for our shared nature. I am so incredibly proud of the work SCCF Ryan Orgera, CEO undertakes, not just the scope but the quality. Our staff is committed to excellence and is part of important regional, national, and international scientific dialogues. In this issue, learn about how SCCF is involved in the international effort to curtail global turtle poaching and trafficking (page 2) and how we are focusing on coastal resiliency to plan for and mitigate the impacts of climate change (page 10). While we think globally, the heart of our work remains squarely focused on what is best for our islands. Preserving land as permanently protected wildlife habitat has been a defining tenet of this institution since our founding in 1967. In the debut Winter 2021 issue of Connecting You to Nature, we explained why it’s critical for SCCF to acquire the 12-acre tract we have dubbed Periwinkle Wetlands during our fundraising campaign. Protecting this land is especially important because it features significant wetlands, which filter out pollutants before they can reach aquifers or the estuary. As Florida’s population continues to boom, we have to act now if we intend to enjoy our natural world for years to come. Florida’s economic engines are directly tied to clean water, clean air, and pristine beaches, and so is our health. At this writing, we feel confident that we will meet the deadline to purchase the land thanks to the many donors who have all contributed to this campaign. While we are happy to receive additional gifts for the land’s restoration and ongoing maintenance, I would also ask you to remember SCCF’s Annual Fund Drive. Balancing our annual operating budget in these challenging times requires the participation of our members and fellow islanders. Please consider returning the enclosed envelope with your most generous tax-deductible contribution before the June 30 end of our fiscal year. I thank you in advance for your consideration of this heartfelt request. Best wishes,

Ryan Orgera SPRING - 2021 | 1


Turtle Trafficking H I T S

H O M E

With a myriad of turtle species ranging across the world, their preservation is predicated on a global network of boots-on-the-ground conservation activities. This includes curtailing collection for the insidious black-market trade. SCCF is a valued piece in that global network.” — Jordan Gray, Communications and Outreach Coordinator Turtle Survival Alliance

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eing a sanctuary island does not come without peril for protected wildlife in this day and age. With about 70 percent of the island designated as conservation lands, freshwater and terrestrial turtles thrive on Sanibel. Yet, living in a veritable paradise has taken a tragic turn for the island’s lesser-known turtles, especially as the demand for them as pets in middle-class households in China and other parts of Asia increases. “In our area, it’s primarily the aquatic and semi-aquatic species such as box turtles, diamondback terrapins, and mud turtles that will not be eaten on the other side of the planet, but kept as pets as a good luck charm, symbol of long-life, or kept as a bragging item to show prosperity,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz, who has earned a statewide reputation as a noted herpetologist. These native turtles inhabit the island’s lush interior wetlands, its mangrove fringe, and native upland and dune vegetation edging neighborhoods and beaches. Since about 2012, Lechowicz has suspected that poachers were targeting turtles on the island. A recent investigation by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) confirmed his suspicions.

REPORT SUSPECTED POACHERS All wild turtles are protected on Sanibel by a city ordinance. They cannot be taken, captured, and/or kept as pets. If you see turtles being collected by someone who is not clearly marked as one of our SCCF Terrestrial and Freshwater Turtle Research volunteers, please call the non-emergency phone number for the Sanibel Police Department: (239) 472-3111. SPRING - 2021 | 3


TURTLE TRAFFICKING HITS HOME Prime Spot for Poaching In 2019, the FWC documented more than 4,000 turtles illegally taken and sold over a six-month period by a Fort Myers-based poacher. In a raid of his home, they found him in possession of hundreds of wild-caught turtles with an estimated black-market value of $200,000. The poacher directed individuals to illegally collect turtles in large numbers; he would then sell them to a buyer with links to Asian markets, investigators said. More than 300 of the turtles seized in the raid were freed on Sanibel and are now part of a long-term monitoring project that started when Lechowicz joined SCCF in 2002. Through his monitoring and marking records, he identified some of those turtles to have come from the island. The vast majority were Florida box turtles (Terrapene carolina bauri). Because the lead poacher was charged with conspiring to supply protected turtles to black-market dealers on 22 dates over two years, Lechowicz

estimates that many more have likely been taken. “With development in much of Lee County replacing habitat, Sanibel has become a prime spot for poaching,” said Lechowicz. The 2019 bust made international news as one of the largest seizures of wild turtles in recent history in Florida, one of the country’s most turtle-rich states. Need for Awareness “Our wild turtle populations are in more need of protection than ever,” said Lechowicz. “They live long lives so we won’t feel the real consequences right away, but after a couple generations, the loss of future adults will deeply affect the number of hatchlings produced. The reproductive strategy of box turtles is for adults to lay small numbers of eggs over a very long lifetime. If the adults are not there, this cannot happen.” In 2001, the Turtle Survival Alliance was founded in an effort to address poaching and trafficking of turtles in Southeast Asia and the global demand for turtles in the food, pet, and traditional

medicine markets. Upon the organization’s 20th anniversary, they are seeing new threats. “As technology evolves, so too does turtle trafficking,” said Jordan Gray, Turtle Survival Alliance Communications and Outreach Coordinator. “Apps that use end-to-end encryption are used for communication that can’t be tracked.” In the Fort Myers bust, the WeChat app was used by the well-organized ring of traffickers. Poachers also target the Florida mud turtle (Kinosternon steindachneri), striped mud turtle (Kinosternon bauri), and the ornate diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota) on Sanibel. “It’s a very dynamic market. It’s like fashion and cars. The new trend is always in demand,” said Gray. “The ornate diamondback terrapin is one such subspecies that is being used in Asia for line-breeding to create incredibly beautiful terrapins with sought-after traits, a designer line if you will.” Demand for specific species can also be fueled by supply pipelines, especially when poachers receive minimal incarceration time and fines.

The Jewel of Sanibel “The really pretty Florida box turtles, with the ornate, unique yellow designs and without any imperfections are in big demand in Hong Kong markets,” said Lechowicz. “That’s one reason that we notch or drill holes in the shells. The other is to identify individual turtles by using a numbering system. This imperfection makes them far less valuable and protects many of them.” In the 1980s, Sanibel naturalist and nature writer George Campbell referred to the box turtle as “the jewel of Sanibel” because of the striking yellow streaks on its black carapace that is used for effective camouflage in vegetation. It’s also known for its size. “Islands sometimes experience events of dwarfism or gigantism in certain species, such as Komodo dragons, and Galapagos tortoises. The average carapace length in Florida box turtles from Sanibel is larger than other known populations,” said Lechowicz. 4 | SCCF — SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION


“They face felony charges, but sentencing and fines typically don’t fit the crime,” adds Gray. The recent Fort Myers poacher pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy and received a fine of $100 and sentencing of 18 months. “We need stronger enforcement and awareness to minimize this illegal activity that is decimating our turtles,” said Lechowicz. “And, most importantly, we need to mark all of our turtles to make them less attractive to poachers. If they have a notch in their shell and microchips, they aren’t worth as much and pose a bigger risk” of being tracked back to the source. That’s why SCCF started a volunteer research group in the summer of 2020. Now, about a dozen trained island residents are on the lookout for box turtles, reporting sightings and markings as well as any unmarked turtles. Volunteers carry a card verifying their identity as part of the SCCF Terrestrial and Freshwater Turtle Research group. Since starting the volunteer program and putting the word out through social media, Lechowicz and his team have marked and microchipped about 30 box turtles, which are the most coveted among poachers. Combating the Illegal Trade Recently, Lechowicz, was invited to join the Collaborative to Combat the Illegal Trade in Turtles (CCITT), a committee that includes biologists and law enforcement personnel from state, federal, and nongovernment agencies across the country. “We discuss current issues and trends involving turtle trafficking

in the U.S.,” he said. “And we brainstorm on solutions to battle traffickers and what to do with confiscated turtles after they’re seized.” They are also working in collaboration with a nationwide network that includes the Turtle Survival Alliance to get stronger state and federal regulations to protect turtles. In Florida, the commercial trade of turtles was banned in 2009. “At that time, tens of thousands of turtles were being legally shipped from Florida to markets in Asia,” said Gray. “The Turtle Survival Alliance provided data to support that ban.” Now, advocates are looking to amend regulations in Florida that still allow personal possession of some species, such as box turtles and

diamondback terrapins, that can be used as loopholes by traffickers. Lechowicz is also working with the City of Sanibel to increase awareness of its ordinance, which prohibits the personal taking or possession of wild turtles. Through signage and other outreach, he hopes to make sure that people understand that removal of any turtles from their island habitat is strictly prohibited, with fines up to $5,000 per turtle. And Lechowicz is hopeful that more people will report unmarked turtles. “We are grateful that our residents take pride in protecting and caring for our wildlife and trust they will help spread the word,” he said.

MOST TARGETED SPECIES ON SANIBEL

Florida box turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri)

Florida mud turtle (Kinosternon steindachneri)

Ornate diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin macrospilota)

Striped mud turtle (Kinosternon bauri)

HOW TO HELP | SPONSOR MONITORING EFFORTS If you are interested in financially helping with SCCF’s freshwater and terrestrial turtle research, please let us know. We are looking for sponsors to help with the costs of microchips, radio transmitters, and telemetry technicians. You can also adopt a box turtle, which enables you to permanently name a box turtle that will be tracked for 300 days and will be permanently identifiable. If you see a box turtle on Sanibel or Captiva, please try to take a picture and notify us at (239) 472-3984 or email clechowicz@sccf.org. SPRING - 2021 | 5


Wilson’s plover (Charadrius wilsonia) eggs are camouflaged among the shells.

Spring Signals Nesting Season

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he islands’ shorelines are active in late spring and early summer, the nesting period for two special seasonal residents: sea turtles and shorebirds. All sea turtle species are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, while our array of migratory and resident coastal bird species fall under various statutes. In April, snowy plovers, Wilson’s plovers, and least terns are actively nesting. Springtime beckons us outdoors, so it’s also time to be vigilant about our habits and behaviors to ensure we are good beach stewards.

HELP PROTECT SEA TURTLES AND SHOREBIRDS • Shield or turn off lights near the beach • Take all beach furniture, tents, and umbrellas off the beach when not in use • Fill any holes you dig • Do not approach or disturb nesting turtles or birds • Never take a flash photo of a sea turtle • Limit your use of flashlights on the beach at night • Pick up and pack out trash, especially plastic, fishing hooks, and fishing line • Ensure your pet is leashed • Pack out your picnic goodies. Food attracts predators • Keep your distance when photographing shorebirds • Never cross enclosure tape to photograph nesting shorebirds • Visit sancaplifesavers.org to learn more

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Loggerhead nests typically begin to hatch in June. This hatchling is beginning its journey in the Gulf of Mexico.


Study Investigates Red Tide Impacts on Sea Turtles SCCF has received a grant from the Florida Centers of Excellence RESTORE Act to understand the sublethal, chronic effects of brevetoxins on the health and reproductive success of nesting turtles. The 2017–2019 harmful algal bloom in Southwest Florida resulted in the largest number of sea turtle deaths ever attributed to a single red tide event. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 1,296 sea turtle strandings were reported in Southwest Florida between October 2017 and January 2019. The conditions were most severe in the waters of Lee County, with SCCF and CROW documenting a staggering 254 strandings on Sanibel and Captiva islands. The impetus for this study was to learn more about the sublethal effects of the catastrophic bloom on seemingly healthy turtles in

the years following the event. A pilot project conducted by Dr. Justin Perrault in 2016 demonstrated that brevetoxins are present in nesting turtles more than 12 months after a bloom has dissipated. Our objective is to learn more about how brevetoxins impact the health of nesting females and the success of their nests, and determine if the toxins can be transferred to their hatchlings through the egg. It is also the first study of its kind to examine the effects of brevetoxin exposure on hatchling pathology. Never before has there been a comprehensive study following a bloom of this magnitude and the data collected will provide critically important metrics to consider when evaluating the overall health of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

The conditions were most severe in the waters of Lee County, with SCCF and CROW documenting a staggering 254 strandings on Sanibel and Captiva islands.

—Kelly Sloan, Director, Coastal Wildlife

PROTECTING SEA TURTLES, SHOREBIRDS & SHARKS SCCF received funding from the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau’s Tourist Development Council (TDC) to strengthen awareness of how to protect and care for our coastal wildlife. The grant allowed us to work with the Fort Myers-based Pearl Creative Agency, which specializes in marine, outdoor, and lifestyle brand marketing. In partnership with the SanibelCaptiva Chamber of Commerce, Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts, South Seas Island Resort, and Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, the campaign is designed to educate visitors on beach behavior through social media, in-house video, and a mobile-friendly website. The campaign launched in March to coincide with the beginning of shorebird and sea turtle nesting seasons. Visit sancaplifesavers.org to learn more.

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Funding Supports Rookery, Oyster Reef Restoration Projects

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collaborative, three-year project between SCCF, J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will restore the Hemp Key rookery’s mangrove canopy and oyster reef habitat. The team has been awarded a competitive $156,000 state grant, in part based on SCCF’s past success with local mangrove restoration work in Clam Bayou and on Silver Key. The project team is led by SCCF Marine Laboratory Director Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D., Ding Darling Refuge Biologist Jeremy Conrad, and FWC Biologist Corey Anderson. They are planning and directing strategic volunteer oyster-seeding events and the planting of mangroves and other salt-tolerant plants. Hemp Key is an active rookery island with nesting activity occurring from January to September. There are many small mangrove islands throughout Pine Island Sound. Many are rookery islands used by wading birds,

Toast to Proud Pour

Oyster restoration being conducted by the SCCF Marine Lab is supported in part by Proud Pour, an ecoconscious winemaker that donates 5 percent of its topline revenue to environmental restoration groups. Its crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, sustainably grown in Mendocino County, Calif., restores 100 wild oysters per bottle to estuaries throughout North America. It is available at Bailey's General Store on Sanibel for $19.99/bottle. Please support our efforts while pairing Proud Pour’s high-quality Sauvignon Blanc with your next seafood dinner.

8 | SCCF — SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION

shorebirds, osprey, frigates, white pelicans, and vultures. The islands are attractive to birds because they are relatively isolated from urban lights, roads, and human bustle. Hemp Key also has a large Calusa Native American shell midden. The mangroves on the islands were severely damaged by Hurricane Charley in 2004, when high winds associated with the eye of the storm caused widespread loss of mangrove canopy. Many of the islands have recovered but five acres remain unvegetated. These islands are surrounded by oyster reefs, which play an important role in this aquatic ecosystem.

—Eric Milbrandt, Ph.D., Director, Marine Laboratory

Volunteers help restore mangroves on Hemp Key.


Summer Fun

Snorkeling is a summer camp staple.

YEAR-ROUND SEA SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS

Campers look forward to the surf paddle race.

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anibel Sea School is offering a full lineup of week-long summer camps beginning June 7. Camps will be based out of two locations this year—at the flagship campus and at the brand-new flagship campus, and, for the first time, at the Bailey Homestead Preserve. With 21 weeks to choose from, there is something for everyone with varied themes and options for campers ages 4 to 6 years old and 6 to 13 years old. Specialty teen camps include the popular allfemale paddleboarding camp, Wahine Toa, and fishing camp. Campers will be immersed in Sanibel’s island ecosystem through hands-on activities related to the weekly theme, such as plankton, coconuts, and fire. Campers will also

spend time honing their paddling skills to prepare for the camp’s culmination with a surf paddle competition, a favorite tradition. Campers will also spend time floating above the seagrass beds in San Carlos Bay, discovering resident creatures through net fishing while creating lasting friendships and ocean memories. The Sanibel Sea School staff is excited to welcome summer campers back on campus for days filled with sun, saltwater, and laughter. In keeping with recommended COVID guidelines, each camp will accommodate a limited number of campers and staff will take strict precautions to maintain a clean and safe environment.

Sanibel Sea School believes that everyone should have access to an ocean education, so no one is ever turned away based on financial hardship. Sanibel Sea School’s donorsupported scholarship program is especially important during the summertime to give kids meaningful, enriching experiences that last a lifetime. In 2019, 155 full or partial scholarships were granted to families that would not otherwise be able to attend camp. By granting scholarships, Sanibel Sea School ensures equitable access to environmental education, which is vital in fostering a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world, and our precious marine ecosystem. Sanibel Sea School looks forward to granting scholarships for the 2021 camp season. Visit sanibelseaschool. org to learn more. —Nicole Finnicum Director, Sanibel Sea School

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Building Coastal Resilience Through Unity

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hile campaigning for last month’s Sanibel City Council election, all six candidates vying for office said they believe humandriven climate change is happening. Increasingly, it is regarded as one of the most pressing issues facing humans. Climate change is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, and industrial activities. Humans have been engaging in these large-scale activities since the Industrial Revolution, which began in the mid-18th century, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have increased exponentially since then. “Without addressing the impacts that climate change brings, life as we know it, for much of the world, will be irreversibly altered,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. Throughout Southwest Florida, climate change and its effects—sea level rise, erosion of sea turtle and shorebird nesting habitat, intensifying storms, and coastal flooding— are becoming the new normal. “Realizing that humans are influencing the future of our coastal ecosystems is a big step towards preparing for and mitigating climate change impacts,” said Orgera. “As a planet and as a region, we can become more resilient only by working together.” Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact In July 2020, Charlotte County Commissioners voted

unanimously to be the first members of the Southwest Regional Resiliency Compact. One month later, Sanibel voted unanimously to become the first municipality to join. Since then, Everglades City, Marco Island, Naples, Punta Gorda, the Village of Estero, and the Captiva Erosion Prevention District have joined the cause. Counties and cities that join the Compact commit to identifying and addressing the effects of climate change. Members will share scientific data and planning tools, develop a unified action plan, and support one another as they prepare for, adapt to, and mitigate climate change impacts. “The unified voice of the Compact will put Southwest Florida in a better position to apply for federal funding and grants, to secure the necessary resources to move climate solutions forward, and to advocate for state and federal legislation that is responsive to the region’s needs,” said SCCF Environmental Policy Director James Evans. Compacts provide a mechanism for advocating for policies that can help reduce greenhouse gases by supporting cleaner energy sources, such as solar electricity. Regional carbon neutrality also can be achieved through forestation. “If Florida’s communities enact policies such as these, we will be in a much better position to combat climate change and its associated effects on sea levels,” said Evans.

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Without addressing the impacts that climate change brings, life as we know it, for much of the world, will be irreversibly altered. — Ryan Orgera, SCCF CEO

What ocean warming causes One of the most sweeping impacts of climate change is its effects on our oceans. The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and is the largest solar energy collector on earth. “More than 90 percent of the warming that has happened on Earth over the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When CO2 emissions warm the ocean: 1. Sea level rises, fueled by melting sea ice and icebergs and thermal expansion because water expands as it warms. 2. CO2 leads to ocean acidification, causing harmful effects to coral reefs, mollusks, and other organisms. 3. Storm events, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, become more intense and frequent, leading to storm surge and increased coastal flooding. Sea level rise is the main concern in Florida. According to NOAA, the Sunshine State has 8,436 miles of shoreline encompassing shorelines, offshore islands, sounds, bays,


© Andrew West – USA TODAY NETWORK

rivers, and creeks. These Florida ecosystems are highly susceptible to the effects of sea level rise, as well as estuaries, lagoons, tidal salt marshes, mangrove swamps, shellfish beds, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and oyster bars. Much of Florida’s coastal wildlife habitats would suffer serious negative effects due to a higher sea level; many species depend on irreplaceable coastline for their nesting sites. Effects of rising seas Sea level rise and its related effects are already occurring, and they will continue to accelerate under current environmental conditions. Scientists with the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact have forecasted between 17 to 31 inches of sea level rise by 2060, and up to 74 inches by 2100. For Sanibel, three feet of sea level rise would leave low-lying wetland habitats— the vast majority of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Tarpon Bay, Sanibel Slough, and the bayous— completely underwater, according to the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer.

Such drastic changes to the island’s landscape would cause dramatic effects on wildlife. Among the species at highest risk of extinction due to sea level rise are sea turtles and shorebirds that nest on sandy beaches, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Habitat loss would force these species to find homes elsewhere, and that transition could seriously reduce population numbers as they are forced to relocate to suitable habitats. “While the challenges may sound daunting, there are ways we can combat sea level rise and its effects on barrier islands and coastal communities,” said Evans. “Joining forces regionally and globally is critical.” From global to local action Globally, the United Nations’ Paris Agreement is the most forceful climate treaty to date. It was adopted in 2015 by 196 nations and is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. Its goal is to limit global climate change up to 2 degrees Celsius above the

Flooding in a Sanibel parking lot after Tropical Storm Sally, September 2020

pre-industrial average, and it aims to accomplish this by setting increasingly ambitious goals for countries to reduce their carbon emissions while adapting to the impending effects of climate change. The Paris Agreement will help combat emissions and tackle the institutionalized, large-scale sources of carbon emissions. On a smaller scale, Florida’s four regional climate compacts allow communities to share resources and coordinate management efforts to make our communities more resilient to sea level rise. “On a policy level, SCCF will alert advocates to take action on issues that help us build coastal resiliency here in Southwest Florida and beyond,” said Evans. “We need to continue to create a united front.” To become an advocate for coastal resilience, sign up for Action Alerts: sccf.org.

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Spring Convergence in the Garden

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4 1 Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) 2 Jamaica caper (Capparis cynophallophora) 3 Simpson’s stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans) 4 Blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) 5 Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

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pring has sprung in Southwest Florida—the ideal time to get out into nature and observe the wonders of plants all around us. It’s also an interesting time from an ecological perspective. This time of the year presents the convergence of two different types of plants: Our more temperate plant species are at the furthest limit of their southern range while subtropical plants that thrive farther south are at the northern limit of their range. This is the southern limit for blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum) and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), which only grow farther north, reaching into Canada. Spring flowering in these plants is typically triggered by rainfall and the lengthening duration

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of daylight and shorter nights during spring. An increase in temperature also contributes to flowering and the production of new leaves. From the opposite perspective, subtropical/ tropical plants in Southwest Florida that have reached their northern equatorial limit are also in blooming mode. This raises an interesting question: How are these plants triggered to bloom at the equator when the length of day and night is basically constant throughout the year? Scientists are just beginning to understand the complicated nature of flowering in subtropical and tropical plants, but a mixture of the intensity of sunlight (which changes throughout the year south of the equator), and changes from the dry

12 | SCCF — SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION

5 to wet season may trigger blooming in tropical species, such as the gumbo limbo (Bursera simaruba), seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera), and Jamaica caper (Capparis cynophallophora). Adding to the mystery is the fact that many of these plants, such as Simpson’s stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans), flower several times throughout the year. This lends credence to the idea that an intricate mix of different factors contribute to the bloom time of particular plants. Regardless of the reasons, spring flowering in Florida is a glorious time to get outside and stop to smell the blossoms. — Jenny Evans Director, Native Landscapes & Adult Education


Where You Shop Matters.

Richard and Mead Johnson

And, for our family, supporting the environment and our community matters even more. By choosing to shop locally at Bailey’s, you help us support the great island non-profits like SCCF. We are proud to co-sponsor this issue of Connecting You to Nature.

Groceries • Hardware • Gifts

Today’s products with old-fashioned island service Bailey’s General Store • 2477 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Open 7 days 7am - 9pm The Island Store • 11500 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Bailey’s Marketplace at Sundial • 1451 Middle Gulf Dr., Sanibel baileys-sanibel.com • 239-472-1516

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SPRING - 2021 | 13


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Connecting You to Nature Spring 2021  

The second issue of SCCF's new magazine showcasing our work to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.

Connecting You to Nature Spring 2021  

The second issue of SCCF's new magazine showcasing our work to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.

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