UT Scientist’s Study Saves Endangered Everglades Bird (245)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A University of Tennessee ecologist has helped one of the world’s most endangered bird species make an astounding comeback in the Everglades.

Dr. Stuart Pimm’s study led to new Everglades water management policies that boosted the Cape Sable seaside sparrow’s numbers 30 percent to more than 6,000 in a single year and saved it from extinction.

Pimm, a UT-Knoxville ecology professor, found that flood control efforts on the park’s Shark River in 1992 almost wiped the birds out.

His work resulted in a federal order restoring the river last year. It saved the birds and the flood risk to developed areas is minor, he said.

“The reason the sparrow declined rapidly since 1992 was because of some unfortunate choices of how water was delivered to the Everglades,” Pimm said. “This year, the managers did the right thing and put the water in the park in the right place at the right time. As a result, the bird has made a dramatic turnaround.”

Pimm, who headed the study for the National Park Service, said restoring the river’s flow also helped preserve the entire Everglades ecosystem. It shows how smart environmental management can protect ecosystems and plant and animal species, he said.

“The park is looking as good as I have seen it in years,” Pimm said. “There is a lesson learned here: If you do the science, look at what it takes to manage these parks, and make the right management choices then the parks will recover.”

Contact: Dr. Stuart Pimm (423-974-3065)