Savannah NWR contains approximately 6,000 acres of impounded freshwater wetlands, all former plantation rice fields, dating back to the mid or late 1700s. Approximately 3,000 acres of this land are now maintained in 17 water-controlled impoundments to provide feeding areas and sanctuary for waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and other wildlife. These managed freshwater impoundments, or pools, provide wintering habitat for an average of 25,000 ducks annually. Approximately 22 species of waterfowl comprise this total. The freshwater plant community is extremely diverse, making it ideal habitat for many species of water birds such as egrets, ibis, and rails. The impoundments are also important spawning and nursery grounds for many species of fish including largemouth bass and sunfish.
In recent years, invasive, exotic plants have become a serious threat to national wildlife refuges throughout the United States. Each year, three million acres of land are lost to exotic, invasive plants, and billions of dollars are spent battling their infestation. Chinese tallow tree, water hyacinth, and alligator weed are species from another area – often from another continent – that have been introduced here locally. They reproduce rapidly, have few predators, and have low food value for wildlife. Like a green virus, these species have infested many impoundments on the refuge and are a constant problem for refuge managers.
Fire has shaped the local landscape for eons. Because of South Carolina Coast’s long history of lightning and man-made fires, natural systems are adapted to fire and depend on frequent fire to remain healthy. Prescribed burning plays a natural role in local ecosystems and is a vital tool for managing public lands. The extraordinarily high plant species diversity of the coastal ecosystems is maintained by fire, which reduces competition from woody plants and recycles nutrients. One of the greatest benefits of prescribed fire is that it reduces “fuels” – the underbrush, branches, pine needles, leaves, and dead plant debris that have built up on the forest floor over time. If fuels are not reduced every few years, wildfires can become intense, hot, and destructive.
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Butterflies, bats, bees...these hard-working animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants, and nearly 75% of our crops.