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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Up in Flames: Wildfire on a Refuge

By June 2011, more acres had burned from wildfires across the country than in all of 2010. The following is a look at one of those wildfires, still raging in Georgia at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. In the Southeast Region, 258 fires have started this year on nearly three dozen national wildlife refuges. A total of about 432,000 acres have burned, the vast majority in the Okefenokee.

It started with a bolt of lightning that hit the swamp at 9 a.m. on April 30. More than three months later, fire is still on the move in the water-starved Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. About three-quarters of the refuge have burned, totaling more than 300,000 acres.

An active fire.An active fire.  Image Credit: Howard McCullough

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Delaware: Betting on Survival in Delaware Bay

A close-up of a red knot

A red knot tagged for research rests and refuels in Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Climate changes such as sea-level rise and increasing storm intensity are adding challenges to red knot survival. Photo: Gregory Breese/USFWS.

Camera iconMore photos: Delaware Bay Estuary Project photoset on Flickr

Video iconRelated video: Crash: A Tale of Two Species on PBS.org

Not far from the casinos of Atlantic City, a different kind of wager takes place each May along the shores of Delaware Bay. 

That’s when red knots, birds the size of a coffee mug, stake their future on the eggs laid by tens of thousands of horseshoe crabs. Without enough crab eggs to fuel them, the long-distance fliers may not survive their 10,000-mile spring trek from the southern tip of South America to their Arctic breeding grounds.

In recent years, the red knots’ bet on the crab eggs has been more of a crapshoot. First, the over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait caused an egg shortage. Now, scientists also point to a wild card.

“The peak of horseshoe crabs spawning in Delaware Bay has not always been aligned with the migration of the red knots,” said Gregory Breese, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s project leader for the Delaware Bay Estuary Project. “That could be related to climate change.”

Changing water temperatures in Delaware Bay and more frequent and intense storms appear to be disrupting the synchronization between the spawning of the crabs and the arrival of the red knots. When waters warm, the crabs lay their eggs earlier, and other creatures may beat red knots to the feast.

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