Monday, 17 November 2003: 4:30 PM
Restoration and Management of South Florida Pine Rocklands with Fire: Fifty Years of Adaptive Management
Within Everglades National Park lies an extensive forest of south Florida slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. densa) with hardwood hammocks and finger glades (short-hydrological period prairies) interspersed throughout. This area and the wetter pinelands adjacent to it are referred to as Long Pine Key. Long Pine Key (LPK) is the collective name applied to the rock ridge and islands surrounded by prairie, which extend west and southwest from Taylor Slough for about 25km into the southern interior of Everglades National Park and for the southern boundary of the Everglades Basin. South Florida slash pine (var. densa) is a subspecies of slash pine (P. elliottii). Although most of the area was logged from the early 1900s and even into the late 40s and early 50s, there are still areas of old growth present in Everglades National Park. This ecosystem is home to a variety of threatened and endangered species including the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), garberís spurge (Chamaesyce garberi), and the eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon corais couperi). South Florida slash pine forests are maintained by fire. Without fire, hardwoods species encroach and overtake the softwoods, resulting in the transformation from pine rockland to hammock. Since the early 1950s, researchers and managers have been working to restore fire into the pinelands to prevent them from becoming hardwood forests. Much of this work has utilized research, professional observation, and experimentation with various fire strategies. Today, much of the pinelands in Everglades National Park have a restored fire regime and ecology sufficient to maintain the diverse ecosystem. The story of last fifty years of pine rockland restoration and experimentation is one, not only of ecological success, but also the changes that the region and nation have seen in attitudes, policies, and strategies to managing and restoring fire.