2015-03-16 / Community

DISCOVER LOVERS KEY

Biodiversity — Good For Us All
By Susan L. Suarez
Friends of Lovers Key


Roseate Spoonbills are an indicator for the overall health of our bays and estuaries. 
dennisgoodmanphotography.com Roseate Spoonbills are an indicator for the overall health of our bays and estuaries. dennisgoodmanphotography.com Pretty much wherever you stroll in Lovers Key State Park, you will see an incredible diversity of animal and plant life.

Walk along the shoreline at low tide and the number and diversity of shells will amaze you. Hike along the Black Island trail and try to count the different types of plants you see. The animals you easily spot in the park – gopher tortoise, osprey, butterflies, manatees, mullet - are just a small hint of the vast number of species that live in this barrier island habitat.

These living things are more than just something beautiful or interesting to look at. They represent biodiversity – a critical part of healthy ecosystems.

Some creatures help scientists learn about unseen changes in our environment. Take the strange looking Roseate Spoonbill, for example. Spoonbills are an indicator for the overall health of our bays and estuaries. They require fish to eat, and the fish require submerged aquatic vegetation, and the submerged aquatic vegetation requires the input of freshwater.

When scientists saw smaller populations of Spoonbills in Southwest Florida and the Everglades, they began to look at the water and the fish supply and found they were also in danger. The linkages between various parts of our ecosystems are often hidden, and vitally important.

It is a joy to admire pelicans, least terns and skimmers along the beach on Lovers Key in the afternoon light. Take a minute to realize that Southwest Florida’s waterways and beaches contribute millions of dollars to the state’s economy through recreation, tourism, and commercial fishing, and it’s easy to understand that there’s a lot more at stake than a flock of pretty pink birds.

If biodiversity is at risk, our health and livelihoods are at risk too.

The Friends of Lovers Key (FOLKS) are working to build a Visitor Center to educate people about why nature matters. Come to Lovers Key – enjoy the park, appreciate nature, and help protect the environment. Join FOLKS and be part of an effort to increase understanding of our natural areas so that they are here for future generations to enjoy too.

For more information visit friendsofloverskey.org or call 239-463-4588.

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