After a major hurricane, it can take years for nature to recover. In this series, we look at the ways Irma has changed St. Martin, and how the island recovers—day by day and week by week.
For the animals that survived Hurricane Irma, what happens now? For many, the time of hardship will be followed by a time of plenty. To the survivors go the spoils, and the task of rebuilding the local ecosystem.
As luck would have it, the peak of hurricane season comes as the island ramps up to its rainiest months. After the destruction and defoliation, rains have brought a burst of fertility to the island. The hills are already lush and green again.
This timing is important. In the Caribbean, many native animals can breed year-round due to the warm weather. However, most do this less in the spring dry season. During the wet season, animals may bear young more frequently, or raise more offspring at once. With an abundance of food available, more newborn animals survive to adulthood.
As plants and trees regrow, they will begin to provide in abundance for our hurricane survivors. Flowers and fruits and leaves will feed insects, insects will feed lizards, lizards will feed birds. For a time, the survivors of Irma will face less competition for these riches. Their offspring will rise to keep the island buzzing and singing with life.
Recovery after a major disaster is built into the very nature of the ecosystem here. Species that were not adapted to this task would have disappeared long ago. Our native species are not only island specialists, but recovery specialists. Adaptations that help them bounce back from the dry season each year also help them prosper at times like this.
All around us, we have an amazing window into the self-healing capabilities of nature. It is on display here at a scale and pace that is easy to watch and appreciate. We can see the way the barren stumps around us begin to regrow. Have you seen a butterfly since the Irma? If not, surely you will soon.
Of course, it will take time to make a full recovery. Giant trees have fallen that will take hundreds of years to replace. Many kinds of bird may take years to get back to the numbers that lived here before Irma. Perhaps some things will never be quite the same. Though the ending is distant and uncertain, this story is ours to witness and enjoy.