Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Draw a line from Ft.Meyers to Disney World and you've got a belt nearly across Florida. I'm talking about a belt of lightning, the focus of the most frequent and intense lightning in North America. On average, from this line south through the Florida peninsula, Floridians see lightning on about 90 days per year, mostly in summer. Across North Florida, and the northern Gulf of Mexico, west to East Texas, the frequency of lightning decreases to about 70 days per year. That's still a lot, compared with the frequency averaging 30 days per year in New York, and ten days per year in California. Lightning starts fires, and under natural conditions, upland forests and grasslands burned almost annually in South Florida. Lightning also injures and kills trees, resulting in infestations of bark beetles. Beetles provide food, and dead trees provide nest sites for woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds. Lightning brings both death and life, constantly renewing the cycle of life and creating habitat mosaics. Lightning shapes landscapes of Florida and dramatically influences where the wild things are.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.