Science & Research

Evaluating management methods In Florida’s Rare Coastal Wetland Ecosystems

Fire suppression has fundamentally altered the structure of Florida’s coastal herbaceous wetlands. Terrestrial wetlands less than a mile away from the the Gulf of Mexico once contained a mosaic of wet flatwoods, wet prairies, and seepage slopes with high plant diversity at the ground layer. Fire suppression allowed shrubs from neighboring baygalls to encroach into the once herbaceous wetland plant communities, altering not only native plant structure, but also soil characteristics and hydrology. Alterations in vegetation structure are likely also leading to shifts in pollinator and herpetofauna habitat and utilization. 

A partnership between Atlanta Botanical Garden and the University of Florida in collaboration with the Florida Park Service will allow for the study of several management practices and their effects on the recovery of groundcover vegetation, shifts in soil characteristics, changes in hydrology, and the use of restored areas by herpetofauna. This 3-year project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and results based on applied restoration techniques will further the understanding and provide guidance regarding the best management practices for these rare coastal ecosystems.