Florida corridor buffers effects of climate change on wildlife—and people

10 million acres of the Florida Wildlife Corridor are already conserved

A massive multi-partner effort that has conserved 10 million acres for wildlife in Florida over past decades will help buffer wildlife—and people—from the effects of climate change, a new report says.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor was created following the passage of the bipartisan Florida Wildlife Corridor Act in 2021. While the corridor is made up of 18 million acres of contiguous land, 8 million of those acres are not yet conserved.

“We refer to those as the opportunity areas,” said Joshua Daskin, the director of conservation at the Archbold Biological Station, a central Florida field station focused on conservation issues.

Daskin was the project manager on the recent report finding that the acreage conserved—and conserving the additional opportunity areas—will benefit wildlife as the climate warms.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor stretches from the Everglades up to the Florida border with Georgia and out to Alabama. The corridor protects iconic Florida species like Florida scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) and Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi). Protecting these corridors is important for wildlife genetics, demography and connectivity, Daskin said.

But the corridor also protects species against some of the effects of climate change, he said. For example, conducting prescribed fires in the corridor can reduce the risk of more intense wildfires—a benefit for both wildlife and the people who live nearby. The corridor of protect lands also avoids exposing people to the threat of wildfires in these areas.

“Protecting Florida scrub jays and panthers and bears is not everyone’s first priority,” Daskin said. “It’s important, if you’re asking for billions of dollars of public and private investment statewide, to give lots of different constituencies credible reasons to protect these areas.”

The corridor can also benefit people through storm management. Two-thirds of Florida’s natural floodplains occur in the Florida Wildlife Corridor. These “natural sponges” are used by wildlife, but they can provide buffers against hurricanes and seasonal thunderstorms if they’re not built on, he said, saving human lives and reducing property damage.

Daskin hopes other states use this model to make ambitious efforts to conserve large carnivores.   

“This effort to bring science and credible advocacy for land conservation can be replicated elsewhere,” he said.

“I would say Florida is absolutely leading the way in the U.S. in prioritizing habitat connectivity, conservation and on identifying both the wildlife and human benefits of doing so,” Daskin said.

Header Image: An aerial view of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Credit: Carlton Ward, Jr./Wildpath