Preserving the marshes and swamps on the Big Bend
is critical to the quality of surface water entering the marine
environment. Throughout the area are numerous freshwater springs,
tidal creeks, small depression ponds, and freshwater marshes. The
greatest diversity of natural communities is found on the Jena,
Spring Creek, and Tide Swamp Units. Scrub is primarily found on the
Spring Creek and Tide Swamp Units, with smaller patches on the Jena
Unit. On Jena
numerous islands containing cabbage palm dot the salt marsh.
Virtually all of the forested portions of Big Bend
were logged. The original longleaf pine was clear-cut and replaced
with fast growing slash, loblolly, and sand pine until state
purchase. Cypress stands logged during the first half of the
century appear relatively natural and undisturbed except for
remnant stumps of large cypress that once dominated the sites.
Hardwoods logged more recently are in early stages of succession
and are characteristically dense with little defined overstory.
Restoration of the sandhill community on Big Bend
is challenging, expensive, and will take many years as virtually
all the area was altered by clearcutting, close planting of slash,
sand, or loblolly pine, and fire suppression. The diversity of
plants and animals found in a sandhill community has been
eliminated as little grows beneath the rows of planted pines.
Without food or cover, wildlife is scarce.
Portions of disturbed sites are managed to benefit
wildlife that thrives in early successional
communities-southeastern American kestrel, red-shouldered hawk,
red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, barred owl, great horned owl,
eastern meadowlark, eastern bluebird as well as deer, turkey,
quail, and dove.
In cooperation with the Florida Forest Service, FWC
is restoring a portion of Tide Swamp. First the slash, sand, and
loblolly pines are removed, then longleaf seedlings are planted. As
the longleaf grows, periodic prescribed fires are conducted to
reduce fuels, recycle nutrients, and minimize competition for
moisture. The ultimate goal is an open pine stand with diverse
groundcover and wildlife.