Beach Ridge Hammocks

beach ridge hammocks

Critical Habitat for endangered butterflies, migratory and resident birds and nesting sea turtles.

These hardwood hammocks occur on high sand berms, within a few feet above sea level, created by storm surge and wind events. Trees in this habitat type grow on a sand or calcareous gravel substrate with low freshwater retention and are usually long, narrow linear features immediately adjacent to beaches. Beach ridge hammocks normally have relatively low plant diversity with a sparse understory, which may contain limber caper, Bahama nightshade, and blackbead. However, the latter may serve as the dominant species over a large area in some beach ridge hammocks. A nearly pure, 4-acre stand on Boca Grande Key provides an example. Of all berm hammocks in Key West NWR, elevation is highest (6.5 to 10 feet) and size greatest on the northwest side of the Marquesas Keys.

Beach ridge hammocks on Boca Grande Key and Marquesas Keys are eroding away as a result of sea level rise and storm events. There are areas where this critical habitat is literally falling into the sea. Public use is very limited in this habitat, as anchoring boats and people walking on dune plants can add to the erosion problem.