[CT Birds] In Support of Hurricanes

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Thu Sep 2 18:43:40 EDT 2010

While there may be some benefit to a limited number of species, I can't agree that hurricanes are generally beneficial for birds today. The few studies I am aware of that address the issue of hurricane effects on overall bird populations in the affected areas concluded that the storms had as many or more detrimental impacts then positive effects on avian populations. In the time before man dramatically altered the shoreline, coastal habitat could change with storms without dramatic loss of acreage of habitat types. A sand bar could be obliterated and reform (that's an over simplification I know) somewhere else. Now many coastal habitats are fragmented small relics hemmed in by human structures. Loss of that habitat isn't necessarily going to equate to new similar habitat showing up somewhere nearby. Griswold Point was breached by a nor'easter and functionally disappeared as a barrier beach in the following years. Now the Great Island Marsh is largely exposed directly to Long Island Sound. The Great Island Marsh/Griswold Point complex is smaller now than it was in 1990. In our world today, many of our natural habitats are fragmented and bird populations are depressed. If an area that is important to a population is lost, and that population is functionally eliminated, there may not be a revival on new habitat. The dynamics of change have always been present, and yes animals adapt, sometimes, not always. But the margins of survival for many populations have changed. The Caribbean is a perfect example of fragmented (by humans more than hurricanes) habitats, that hold small populations, being hammered by passing hurricanes that ultimately reduce populations or eliminate them altogether. The Puerto Rican Bullfinch on St. Kitts for example. And I haven't even touched on mortality of birds exposed to the storm directly, as Jayne mentioned. Certainly in the past, hurricanes had less affect on bird populations overall. It is we that have made those effects more significant. 



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