HOMESTEAD, Fla. (May 3, 2010)—After 24 straight hours of exploration and documentation, the Biscayne BioBlitz provided a snapshot of the many land and water species that live in Biscayne National Park. Led by more than 200 scientists from around the country, thousands of amateur explorers, families and schoolchildren from south Florida conducted an inventory of the plants, insects, fish and other creatures that inhabit one of the nation’s largest marine national parks. The event, from noon Friday, April 30, to noon Saturday, May 1, was presented by National Geographic and the National Park Service, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
- The initial species count as of 12:30 p.m. Saturday was more than 800, with this number rising rapidly throughout the afternoon. Over the next few months, organizers expect this number to increase significantly as state-of-the-art testing of the collected samples continues.
- On-land observations of a number of species rare to the park included the silver hairstreak butterfly, mangrove cuckoo, bay-breasted warbler and nesting roseate spoonbills.
- Underwater park divers were excited to observe black, red and gag groupers on a night dive on the park’s reefs. In addition, park scientists were delighted not to have seen any invasive exotic lionfish during the BioBlitz inventory.
- BioBlitz participants identified 11 species of lichen and 22 species of ants that had not previously been documented in the park.
- Internationally known tardigrade specialist William (Randy) Miller, a biologist at Baker University, identified a phylum of tardigrades — commonly known as water bears — not previously found in the park.
- Seven candidate champion trees — paradise tree, Bahama strong bark, blolly, milk bark, Joe-wood, inkwood and pigeon plum — were observed at the end of Totten Key. Scientists were excited to see these unique trees survived Hurricane Andrew, which hit the area in 1992.
- More than 2,500 people of all ages participated in the program during the 24-hour BioBlitz, including more than 1,300 registered school children from Miami-Dade County.
- The Celebrate Biodiversity Festival that followed the BioBlitz included several bands, talks, nature walks, live animal demonstrations and other activities. The festival focused on biodiversity and encouraging the public to do their part to protect the environment. Many visitors graduated from “Biodiversity University” by participating in an education program throughout the festival.
The BioBlitz was part scientific endeavor, part festival and part outdoor classroom. Participants combed the park, observing and recording as many plant and animal species as possible in 24 hours. Activities included exploring the reefs and Elliott Key, catching insects, searching for hidden moss and lichen in shallow waters, seining fish and other aquatic organisms, and observing birds.
“This was a fantastic opportunity for the public to meet the scientists and understand what makes Biscayne National Park a special place,” said Mark Lewis, Biscayne National Park superintendent. “Sunny skies and temperate weather brought thousands of people out to help us learn more about the park.”
“I was thrilled by the connections made through the event,” said John Francis, National Geographic’s vice president for research, conservation and exploration. “Scientists joined students and people from the surrounding coastal communities and celebrated their unique roles as members of the natural systems where they live.”
Biscayne National Park was the fourth in a series of 10 annual BioBlitzes to be hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service leading up to the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. During closing ceremonies Saturday at Convoy Point, the BioBlitz flag was passed to Darla Sidles, superintendent of Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, where the fifth BioBlitz will take place in 2011.
The first BioBlitz was held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., in 2007; Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California was the BioBlitz site in 2008; and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was the site of the third BioBlitz in 2009.
The Biscayne BioBlitz was made possible through the support of foundations, nonprofit organizations and corporations. In addition to Knight Foundation, nonprofit and foundation support came from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, the Harold M. and Adeline S. Morrison Family Foundation, the Adelaide M. and Charles B. Link Foundation, the Verizon Foundation and the South Florida National Parks Trust. Corporate support included Southwest Airlines, Spectrum Brands, Oracle, Verizon Wireless, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Homestead-Miami Speedway, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Immaculate Baking Company.
Biscayne National Park is one of 392 units of the National Park System, ranging from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty. Miami’s closest national park, Biscayne is a paradise for marine life, water birds, boaters, snorkelers and divers. More than a half million visitors come to this national park each year. More information can be found at www.nps.gov/bisc.
National Geographic has had a close relationship with the National Park Service since the Service’s inception; the Society helped draft legislation to establish the Service in 1916. National Geographic has given grants to establish or sustain national parks and has extensively covered the parks in its media for nearly a century.
The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 375 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,200 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed, engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.
NOTE: Images are available at http://ftp.nationalgeographic.com/pressroom/bioblitz.
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