Featured mission: Surveying Hurricane Ian impacts in the Everglades
An aerial survey of the Everglades after Hurricane Ian revealed the mangroves in the Ten Thousand Islands area were practically unscathed.. Photo by Alex Harris
In late September, Hurricane Ian roared into the coast of Florida. A category 4 hurricane, it was the fifth strongest storm to make landfall in the U.S. It caused widespread damage and loss of life.
LightHawk partner The Everglades Foundation reached out
shortly after the storm to plan a reconnaissance flight over the coastal Everglades, Florida Bay and the southwest coastline to assess water quality and document impacts from Ian's landfall. The Everglades Foundation is dedicated to protecting and restoring one of the world's unique natural ecosystems, providing economic, recreational and life-sustaining benefits to the millions of people who depend on its future health.
Tea-colored water and beach erosion. Photo by Steve Davis
Volunteer Pilot Robert Decker responded to the call and took Steve Davis, Chief Science Officer with the Everglades Foundation, along with Alex Harris, reporter for the Miami Herald climate team, on the aerial tour.
In the nearly 2-hour flight, they were
able to capture a number of photos and observe the impacts Ian had on the Everglades ecosystem. What they found? The ecosystem fared pretty well. Mangrove forests appear to have survived, unlike their fate after hurricane Irma. The previously standing deadfall had been blown over, but of the living mangroves, there was very little evidence of defoliation, indicating they survived the hurricane this time around.
An aerial survey of the Everglades after Hurricane Ian revealed the mangroves near the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park were practically unscathed.. Photo by Alex Harris
They also noted evidence of water having been pulled out of basins and into Florida Bay. These basins are separated from one another by mangrove islands and mud banks. Without getting flushed out after high tides, salty conditions have caused seagrass die offs in the past. Additionally, algae has grown in the basins leading to unhealthy environments for other plant life and animals. Ian appears to have flushed out those basins which will help seagrass recovery. They noted clear water conditions which is a great sign for the environment.
During a conversation after the flight, Davis noted that the only way to make these observations and gather this kind of information is in the air. He was also able to observe the benefits of completed/ongoing restoration projects implemented in the Everglades. Due to the scale of projects and the size of the area covered, the aerial perspective is the only way to get a clear picture of the situation.
Thanks to volunteer pilot Robert Decker for providing this flight with partner The Everglades Foundation.
Sailboat washed ashore by Hurricane Ian. Photo by Robert Decker
Photos from LightHawk's 2022 Annual Meeting & Fly-In are now available for viewing on our website! Click the link below to see some photos from the event. Videos are coming soon!
LightHawk Photo of the Month
Photo by Jon Waterman
This month's Photo of the Month comes from LightHawk partner photographer Jon Waterman. The northern edge of the Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge rises to sand hills, part of a property acquired by the Nature
Conservancy and recently deeded to the refuge to be protected.
The mission that produced this image is part of his work on a National Geographic book Atlas of American Wilds and a film about wilderness, to be released in 2023, to celebrate the 2024 60th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
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