Kaetlyn Jackson is the Park Planner at Fire Island National Seashore, and has been working for the National Park Service for 10 years. Kaetlyn has a bachelor’s degree in Conservation and Wildlife Management, and Environmental Sciences, and a master’s degree in Biology. She lives in Patchogue and enjoys gardening with native plants in her yard, and educating the public about native plants at Fire Island.
She spoke on Barrier Island Botany-and reviewed habitat types and how the different plant species have evolved to handle living in harsh conditions from beach to bay.
The plant life of Fire Island is diverse and reflects the great variation in such environmental factors as wind, salinity, the availability of soil moisture, and the extent of human activity.
Many habitats, like the beach and primary dune face, are so severe that only a few plant species can survive. However, just a few feet away in a more protected habitat, many species may thrive.
Many of the plant species of the barrier island have large edible fruits that serve as food sources for a wide variety of bird species. In return, migrating birds provide a means of plant dispersal as they follow the Atlantic flyway.
Plants also provide homes for nesting birds, and food and cover for other forms of wildlife.