Cabbage Palm thinning
The hydroperiod on much of the refuge has been significantly shortened by canals along SR 29 and I-75, allowing the encroachment of cabbage palms and other invasive and exotic species. Historically there were perhaps a dozen cabbage palms per acre on the refuge. Today, we see densities over 2,200 per acre. This higher unnatural density of cabbage palms have increased fire intensity, damaging the forest stand. Over the past 8 years, the refuge has been selectively thinning cabbage palms in the pine flatwoods and wet prairies. This has promoted a more diverse vegetative cover, providing better forage for wildlife, while decreasing fire intensity. While restoring the hydrology on the refuge is the long term goal for a healthy ecosystem, managing the understory and mid-story growth is essential to maintain biological diversity.
Canals along I-75 and SR 29, have a draining effect on the surface and groundwater within the refuge. In the dry season, November-May, these canals allow for the drainage of water reducing our hydroperiod. For the long term restoration needs of the refuge, it is essential to work with our partners at the South Florida Water Management district to restore the hydrology.
Wildlife Planting – Reforestation
Prior to becoming a refuge, approximately 400 acres of cypress were converted to an agricultural field. We are working to restore these areas to provide more beneficial habitat for wildlife. The restoration design is to provide better food, water, and cover for predator and prey.
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Public scoping comments for updating our fire management plan are due by Feb. 27, 2015.