Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I’m Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Wild fires in Florida often result from arson or carelessness, but sometimes it's just Mother Nature doing what Mother Nature does. With lightning frequencies as high as 40 strikes per year, per square mile in southwest Florida, lightning-started fires are natural in our landscape. Some Florida forests naturally burned almost annually, and many native creatures have unique adaptations for surviving fire. Pines, saw palmetto, wiregrass, and many other Florida plants are fire resistant. Some keep growing tips and store nutrients underground, protected from fires and ready to make a quick comeback after a fire. Red-cockaded woodpeckers make nest cavities in fire resistant living pines. Gopher tortoises, gopher frogs, diamond back rattlesnakes, and others find safety from fire within gopher tortoise burrows. Many creatures depend on fire for the habitats they need. Without fire, habitats change, and species that depend on them disappear. Every road acts as a fire break, and natural fires don't travel as far as they once did. In managing Florida's pine forest ecosystems and to prevent dangerous build up of fuels, foresters mimic nature by introducing fire under controlled conditions.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Art and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I’m Dr. Jerry Jackson.