Managing & Protecting Our Natural Habitats
Here in Florida, we're blessed with unique geography and an abundance of protected natural areas. Our peninsular state stretches from the coastal plains in the south toward the Tropic of Cancer, and to our three sides lay the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea. In this one-of-a-kind location, there is an impressive variety of beautiful natural habitats, from desert-like scrublands to prairies, coastal dunes to limestone caverns, and saltwater marshes to subtropical forests.
But our native habitats are disappearing continuously. Today, more than half of our land is claimed by either urbanization or the increasing and essential agriculture we need to sustain ourselves--both inevitable consequences of an increasing population. For more than 100 years, wildlife and natural habitats have been impacted by development. Additionally, many of these areas have also been adversely affected by non-native plant species. Only a small number of the 25,000 estimated plant species brought to Florida for agricultural or landscaping purposes have become invasive. However, the species that do can negatively affect native plant communities by hybridizing with native species, competing for space and resources, and disrupting hydrologic and fire regimes. These invasive species must be managed for the protection of our native plant communities.
Erosion Control; Coastal Dune, Shoreline, & Spoil Island Restoration
Natural dune systems are series of vegetated ridges created by wind and waves. These natural forces move sand landward where vegetation grows, thereby trapping the sand. As sand accumulates, vegetation continues to grow, and a network of roots forms and anchors to the sand. As sand is continuously deposited on the land, the dune field begins to migrate, and new dunes are formed.
Dunes are dynamic. They provide habitat for wildlife, protection from storms, and a recreational attraction for tourists. Dunes also protect coastal towns from strong winds and waves during storms. They are a part of the coastal ecosystem and support a diversity of plants and wildlife. Additionally, they attract visitors to our shorelines for recreation and tourism. The restoration of coastal dune vegetation is important because it helps stabilize the dunes and provides an essential habitat and food for a wide variety of wildlife, including endangered species.