Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary faces somber future as water dries up

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:

You could soon see fewer plants, birds, and other wildlife at one Collier County attraction. Researchers say it’s because there is less water, especially during dry season.

It’s all happening at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Jack Fortnum of Naples enjoys the area, saying, “You can’t hear anything except for the birds chirping and the leaves falling and rattling in the wind.”

But a 60-year study on the slice of nature’s paradise shows the swamp is drying up.

Dr. Shawn Clem is the research director at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. She says, “When we get to the dry season, we’re drying down much faster and for much longer than we ever did historically.”

Putting plants, wildlife and us at risk.

“We have less water available or we have to go deeper to get that good freshwater,” Dr. Clem said. Leaving the sanctuary at higher risk of wildfires. “We wouldn’t be able to get in here to get machinery and tools to put it out,” she added.

While the causes are not yet known, researchers believe water removed from the system for agriculture and residential use, vegetation changes, and a change in temperature may have contributed to the problem.

And once they figure out the causes, Dr. Clem says, “then we can be a little more proactive about figuring out what we can do about it, and that maybe through policy work; it may be through changes in best management practices.”

Until then, it’s our responsibility to pass it on to the next generation, for humans and nature alike.

Dr. Clem also says the changes in water levels in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary are not unique, meaning it could reflect environmental changes across all of Southwest Florida and even the state.

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