As the effects of climate change become more pronounced in our West Volusia ecosystems, some people have already begun to observe changes.
“If we have a warm winter, those plants that are Category 2 [not posing a threat to an ecosystem] don’t freeze and become Category 1 plants [invasive plants that pose a threat to an ecosystem] due to climate change,” DeLand horticulturist Erin Miceli said.
As summers get hotter and cold weather sets in later, native plants and animals will be forced to adapt or find suitable habitats elsewhere.
Climate change won’t be a switch flipped, suddenly causing hotter summers. Instead, gradual changes to climate will spell gradual changes in plant and animal populations.
One concern, Miceli said, is that native plants will be overtaken in West Volusia by invasive species more suited to a warmer climate. She has already observed some invasive plants dying less in the winter and creeping further and further from their existing habitats.
Animals are affected, too, and not just by changes in available plants.
Lyonia Environmental Center founder and former manager Stephen Kintner has observed a shocking change in scrub-jay populations in their Deltona preserve.
“They’re trying to breed earlier, a month earlier,” Kintner said. “There’s a particular call they give when they’re trying to breed. We were out there a few weeks ago and heard a female giving the call in October. I’ve never heard a mating call that early.”
Kintner continued, “Scrub jays don’t respond to calls when they’re hot, which typically happened around noon, but this year they weren’t responding as early as 9 a.m.”
Coldblooded creatures, too, may have a hard time adapting to hotter temperatures, and reptiles may have to change habitats to find optimum climates, he said.