Florida Panhandle (Apalachicola National Forest), © Julie Tew
© Julie Tew

Florida Panhandle

Threats to the Florida Panhandle

Wildlife of the Florida Panhandle are most threatened by destruction and fragmentation of habitat due to human development – residential and commercial urbanization (both inland and along the beaches), conversion to agriculture and road projects. Buildings, seawalls and lights along the coastline are reducing the amount of suitable habitat for nesting sea turtles, shorebirds and endangered beach mice.

Agriculture

As the value of certain agricultural commodities (e.g., peanuts) has increased, more land is being cleared for agriculture. Intensive agriculture eliminates most natural resource value, wildlife and wildlife habitat, and it frequently paves the way for commercial and residential development projects in the area.  

Roadways

Plans for increased and expanded highways through the region are also a looming threat. Poorly-planned transportation systems can result in more wildlife collisions with vehicles (road kill) and also lead to sprawling, scattered development, which breaks important habitat into disconnected pieces and also increases the occurrence of human-wildlife conflicts. These impacts are especially felt by wide-ranging species.

Climate Change

Notably, Florida’s Gulf coast is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.  Adapting to rising waters and intense storms is a daunting challenge, especially for the Panhandle’s island and coastal communities.