Flora and Fauna of Northwest Florida

Biology Department

University of West Florida

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Wet Prairies

Garcon Point Peninsula and West Pensacola contain extensive areas of flat, freshwater wetlands called herb bogs, wet prairies or savannas. Smaller expanses of this habitat type are found widely scattered throughout our region. Lateral seepage of ground water over impervious layers (clays, organic deposits) on very gently sloping terrain results in the expanses of fire dependent wetland communities. This photo (above) is of a cypress dome (Taxodium ascendens) and slash pines (Pinus elliotii) in a sea of grasses (dominated by wiregrass, Aristida stricta) and wildflowers on Garcon Point. A tremendous diversity of plant life occurs on the prairie, including carnivorous plants like sundews (Drosera spp.) and pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.; below).

 

Sarracenia flava pitcher (above) and flower (right).

 

Northwest Florida Water Management District Wet Prairie Restoration

The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) acquired a plot on Garcon Point that was planted in slash pine (Pinus ellioti) for timber production (the Avalon tract, below left, 1999). The goal of the restoration effort is to return the site to wet prairie status by selective thinning and harvest of the pines in conjunction with prescribed burning. UWF has a contract to monitor the changes in the plant communities at the site during the restoration effort. An undisturbed area of wet prairie is being used as a reference site (Clark tract, below right, 1999) to gauge the effectiveness of the restoration effort. Initially the plant communities at the two sites are very different, likely due to competition for light and nutrients between the pines and the normally diverse ground cover of annual and perennial plants.  Plant community structure of the Clark tract has been remarkably stable despite repeated fire and hurricanes.

 

These are fire-dependent habitats.  The NWFWMD maintains its wet prairie holdings with prescribed burning, and is using fire to help restore the Avalon tract to its original wet prairie state.  The images below represent the Avalon tract one week post-burn (left) and the Clark tract three weeks post burn (right) in May 2008.