Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Receives International Acclaim

Photo by RJ Wiley | Ghost Orchid.

In 2019, research conducted at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary made international headlines when visiting researchers’ camera traps captured the pollination of a ghost orchid and up-ended long-standing hypotheses about the identity of this rare orchid’s pollinators. Now, the September 2019 peer-reviewed paper describing that research has made a prestigious list of Scientific Reports most downloaded research papers. It was ranked 46 on a list of the top 100 ecology publications of 2019. 

Scientific Reports, a Nature Research journal, publishes peer-reviewed research papers written about diverse topics both natural and clinical from around the world. With more than 300,000 citations in 2018, it claims to be the 11th most cited journal worldwide and is widely respected. 

“It is gratifying to see that our paper was so well-received by our peers in the scientific community,” said Shawn Clem, Ph.D., Director of Research at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and one of the authors of the paper. “In addition to this exciting ecological discovery in itself, this project was a real testament to the value of Audubon’s partnerships and the potential for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s visiting researcher program to bolster conservation of our swamp, the Western Everglades, and the world’s biodiversity.” 

Following many months of observations of Corkscrew’s famed “Super” ghost orchid by National Geographic Explorers Peter Houlihan and Mac Stone, Clem collaborated on the paper, “Pollination ecology of the ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii): A first description with new hypotheses for Darwin’s orchids,” which was published in September 2019. 

According to Sanctuary Director Lisa Korte, ghost orchids are valuable resources at the Sanctuary. “Understanding this species’ ecology is key to protecting it,” she said. “This interest in our scientific paper demonstrates Audubon’s leadership in using scientific research to conserve wetlands.” 

The paper highlights increased risk for ghost orchids as a result of water loss from regional landuse changes, and notes: “Small and large scale wetland restoration projects within the Greater Everglades can help maintain and restore climatic stability for both ghost orchids and their hawkmoth pollinators.” Wetland restoration is one of the ongoing conservation projects at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. 

In addition to Stone, Houlihan, and Clem, authors of the Scientific Reports paper included Mike Owen, biologist at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Parkand the late Dr. Thomas C. Emmel, Ph.D., founding director of the Florida Museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity at the University of Florida.  

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, recognized in 2019 as the newest Wetland of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists, has been an Audubon-protected nature site for more than 100 years. It protects 13,000 acres, including the world’s largest remaining, old-growth bald cypress forest. An estimated 100,000 visitors annually explore the Sanctuary’s 2.25 miles of boardwalk through ancient forest, marsh, and upland habitats. The Sanctuary is currently closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Visit Corkscrew.Audubon.org for more information. 

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