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Martin B. Main and Ginger M. Allen2 1. This document is Fact Sheet WEC 236, one of the Florida's Environment series of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: July 2007. Reviewed November 2010. Please visit the Edis website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edun. 2. Martin B. Main, associate professor, wildlife extension specialist, and Ginger M. Allen, senior biologist, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL; Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-0304. Florida's Environment Series Southwest Florida (Fig.1) is dominated by wetland ecosystems, 40 percent of which are in conservation lands (Table 1 ). Inland, the northern reaches of this region are dominated by seasonally flooded pine flatwoods scattered with small ponds. Important native habitats include pine flatwoods, oak and cabbage palm hammocks, sand pine scrub, cypress domes, and dry prairies. Southwest Florida region with counties. Credits: UF/IFAS A mix of temperate and tropical species contributes to high plant and animal diversity and the region is considered one of the Earth's biodiversity hotspots. Coastal waters in the northern part of the region receive freshwater from several rivers including the Caloosahatchee River, whereas the southern part of the region is dominated by marshes and swamps which drain by way of sheet flow into the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. Estuaries support productive mangrove swamps and seagrass meadows. Highly productive fisheries, abundant waterbirds, and manatees and dolphins are supported by the coastal
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 2 Conservation land acreage in Florida's southwest region Charlotte 168,720 38% Collier 855,820 66% Glades 88,630 18% Hendry 91,790 12% Lee 80,640 16% Based on 2006 Florida Natural Areas Inventory Managed Conservation Lands. Florida State University. estuarine system. The attractive climate and natural features of southwest Florida are fueling rapid development in the region. This document summarizes major rivers, lakes and springs, featured natural areas, and cultural aspects of Florida's southwest region. For information on other regions in Florida, refer to "The Florida Environment: An Overview" and the other seven regional profiles available online (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu). There are few rivers in southwest Florida, although the Six-Mile Cypress Slough, Fakahatchee Strand (Figure 2), and Okaloacoochee Slough could be considered "rivers" of a sort. Sloughs and strands function as shallow conduits for overland flow of surface waters that accumulate during the rainy season. The major distinction between the terms strands and sloughs are that strands refer to a dominant presence of cypress trees throughout the waterway and sloughs specifically refer to the deeper areas where water moves across the landscape. Sloughs may occur within strands but may also occur within wetlands dominated by sawgrass or other vegetation. The entire surface water drainage system is a mixture of these diffuse wetland waterways, relatively few distinct stream channels, and an extensive network of manmade canals. The Caloosahatchee River is the largest true river in southwest Florida. As Pleistocene sea levels receded, The Caloosahatchee valley emerged as a river and series of lakes connected by wet prairies and waterfalls between the inland Lake Hicpochee and the Gulf of Mexico. In 1884 a canal was built connecting the river to Lake Okeechobee, then dredging and straightening occurred which further altered the drainage and flow of the watershed. Southwest Florida major conservation lands. Credits: UF/IFAS Combined with the Caloosahatchee River, the Peace and Myakka rivers serve a watershed of nearly 4,500 square miles. Within this watershed, urban areas, agriculture, and phosphate mining operations contribute nonpoint source pollutants that contribute to water quality problems in the Charlotte Harbor estuary and contiguous coastal waters. More about Caloosahatchee River restoration efforts is available online (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org). Several small rivers and streams occur near the coast including the Estero, Imperial, and Blackwater rivers. Major pathways for drainage by overland flow include Deep Lake Strand, Okaloacoochee Slough, Fakahatchee Strand, Roberts Lake Strand, and Gum Slough. The largest of these overland drainage systems is the Okaloacoochee Slough, which is about 2 miles wide and 50 miles long. The Okaloacoochee Slough runs southwest to the Fakahatchee Strand, which is roughly 20-miles long and drains to the Gulf of Mexico in the area of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge.
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 3 The major wetland system in southwest Florida is the Big Cypress Swamp, which is more appropriately described as the Big Cypress Basin (BCB) watershedn, because the habitats within the BCB encompass over 2,500 square miles. Fakahatchee Strand is the primary drainage slough for Big Cypress Swamp. Other major drainage systems in southwest Florida include the Golden Gate Canal, Henderson Creek Canal, Faka Union Canal, and Cocohatchee River Canal, although plans are underway to fill some of these canals to restore important wetland habitat. Naturally formed lakes are uncommon in southwest Florida due to shallow soils atop a limestone base rock. Naturally occurring lakes include Lake Trafford, a large shallow lake, and Deep Lake, which is one of the deepest lakes in Florida. Lake Trafford, the largest lake in southwest Florida (1,500 acres), feeds a natural sheet flow of water south to coastal estuaries, Corkscrew Swamp, and across Picayune Strand. Deep Lake was formed from dissolution of the underlying limestone base rock. Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is in Collier County. The core of the reserve consists of mangrove wetlands, and pine and oak uplands. The combined Aquatic Preserves total 112,000 acres. Rookery Bay is nationally recognized as one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in the United States. As one of only 25 National Estuarine Research Reserves, it serves as an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students and scientists, as well as home to recreationally and commercially important fish and shellfish, dolphins, manatees, and important nesting areas for waterbirds. Fakahatchee Strand State Park is the largest cypress strand (linear) swamp on Earth. Although dominated by cypress swamp and wet prairie habitats, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks also occur and provide important habitat for the Florida panther, Florida black bear, Everglades mink and Big Cypress fox squirrel. The buffering effect of the slough and the deeper lakes that intersperse it shield the swamp interior from extreme cold temperatures and this fosters a high level of rare and endangered tropical plant species. Fakahatchee Strand is the only place in the world where bald cypress trees and royal palms share the forest canopy. It is the orchid and bromeliad capital of the continent with 44 native orchids and 14 native bromeliad species. Collier Seminole State Park encompasses 6,430 acres dominated by mangrove swamp but that also includes tropical hammock habitat and pine flatwoods, as well as cypress swamps and salt marsh habitat. The rare Florida royal palm is common here, and wood storks, bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, Florida black bears, and American crocodiles have been documented in the park. A boardwalk provides easy access and viewing. J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of Florida's best-known and most visited wildlife observation sites in Florida. Ding Darling also administers the Caloosahatchee NWR, Island Bay NWR, Matlacha Pass NWR, and the Pine Island NWR as a land management complex. There are brackish and freshwater impoundments in the refuge providing habitat for Mottled ducks, American swallow-tailed kites, roseate spoonbills, white ibis, wood storks, mangrove cuckoos, and all types of herons. Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve is bordered on the west by a chain of barrier islands, which include Estero Island, Long Key, Lovers Key, Black Island, Big Hickory Island, and Little Hickory Island. Within the estuary are hundreds of smaller islands, including Mound Key, which is an ancient shell mound island believed to have been the central location of the Calusa Indian nation. Mangroves and seagrasses provide habitat for nesting and wintering waterbirds, and home to a sizable population of manatees and bottle-nosed dolphins. The estuary is not supplied with freshwater by any major river, but rather by a number of small rivers and creeks. Charlotte Harbor National Estuary is the second largest open water estuary in the state. The estuary and contiguous coastal waters serve as a home, feeding ground and/or nursery area for more then 270 species of resident, migrant, and commercial fishes. Manatees, sea turtles, wood storks, and dolphins also depend on this estuary.
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 4 The Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve covers an area of approximately 42,400 acres in Charlotte and Lee counties. The preserve is primarily mangrove and salt marsh wetlands with a mix of freshwater marsh, coastal scrub, tropical hardwood hammocks, and pinelands. The preserve fronts miles of open bay waters, tidal creeks, and the mouth of the Myakka, Peace and Caloosahatchee rivers. The coastal wetlands are largely undisturbed and have high ecological value. The preserve provides additional protection to a group of aquatic preserves that have been established to protect the Charlotte Harbor estuary. These aquatic preserves include Gasparilla Sound / Charlotte Harbor (80,000 acres), Cape Haze (11,289 acres), Matlacha Pass (14,000 acres), and Pine Island Sound (62,000 acres). Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area includes 79,000 acres in Charlotte County and is dominated by pine flatwoods and seasonally flooded prairies and marshes, and includes cypress swamp and hardwood hammock habitats. The pine flatwoods support red-cockaded woodpeckers, which are even rarer in south Florida than they are in north Florida. Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in southwest Florida Collier Everglades National Park [see south east Region for detail] (305) 242-7700 http://www.nps.gov/ever Collier Rookery Bay Aquatic Preserve & NERR (239) 417-6310 http://www.rookerybay.org/ Collier Barefoot State Preserve (239) 591-4986 http://myfwc.com/recreation/View_Destinations_sitesw10.htm Collier Cape RomanoTen Thousand Islands Aquatic Preserve (239) 417-6310 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/caperomano/ n Collier Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park (239) 597-6196 http://www.floridastateparks.org/delnorwiggins/ default.cfm Collier Royal Palm Hammock Creek (239) 394-3397 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/south/ trails/blackwater_riv.htm Collier Collier Seminole State Park (239) 394-3397 http://www.floridastateparks.org/collierseminole/ default.cfm Collier Florida Panther NWR (239) 353-8442 http://www.fws.gov/floridapanther/index.html Collier Big Cypress Natural Preserve (941) 695-4111 http://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm Collier Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (239) 695-4593 http://www.floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand/ Collier Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (941) 657-3771 http://www.corkscrew.audubon.org/ Collier/ nLee Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (800) 248-1201 http://www.crewtrust.org/ Collier Picayune Strand State Forest (941) 352-4212 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ picayune_strand.html Collier Lake Trafford (941) 657-2401 http://www.laketrafford.com/ The Paleo-Indians that inhabited south Florida roughly 10,000 years ago lived in an arid savannah and scrub landscape that supported mastodon, giant sloth, and other large mammalsn often referred to as Pleistocene megafauna. These huge animals were the staple food source for these early peoples. With the end of the ice age and associated sea level rise approximately 8,500 years ago, Florida's environment became wetter and the Pleistocene megafauna disappeared. During the next 6,000 years, the native peoples in south Florida were defined as the Archaic peoples and were a more traditional hunter-gatherer society. Climatic conditions during the Archaic period changed from wet to dry with a prolonged drought that persisted about 3,000 years. Human populations declined during this period and became increasingly concentrated in coastal areas. Roughly 4,000 to 5,000 years ago the drought ended and sea levels rose creating more favorable living conditions and an increase in the human population in southwest
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 5 Recreational and cultural opportunities in natural areas in southwest Florida Collier/ Hendry Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest (941) 694-2181 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ okaloacoochee.html Charlotte Cecil M. Webb WMA (941) 575-5768 http://www.fl-dof.com/state_forests/ okaloacoochee.html Charlotte Cedar Point Park (941) 475-0769 http://www.lcra.org/parks/recreation_areas/ cedar_point.html Charlotte Babcock Wilderness Adventures (800) 500-5583 http://www.babcockwilderness.com Charlotte Charlotte Harbor Natl Estuary (941) 995-1777 http://www.charlotteharbornep.org/ Charlotte Island Bay NWR & Wilderness (941) 472-1100 http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/ index.cfm?id=41547 Charlotte Don Pedro Island State Park (941) 964-0375 http://www.floridastateparks.org/donpedroisland/ Charlotte Gasparilla Sound Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve (941) 575-5861 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/gasparilla/ Charlotte Lemon Bay Aquatic Preserve (941) 575-5861 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/lemon/ Charlotte/ nLee Cape Haze Aquatic Preserve (941) 575-5861 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/capehaze/ Glades Fisheating Creek State Park (863) 946-3352 http://www.fisheatingcreek.com Lee Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve (239) 575-5861 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/pineisland/ Lee Pine Island NWR (239) 472-1100 http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/pineisland/ Lee Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve (239) 575-5861 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/matlacha/ Lee Matlacha Pass NWR (239) 472-1100 http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/matlachapass/ Lee Gasparilla Island State Park (239) 9640375 http://www.floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland/ default.cfm Lee Lovers Key State Park (239) 463-4588 http://www.floridastateparks.org/loverskey/ Lee Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (239) 472-2329 http://www.sccf.org/ Lee Caloosahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (239) 472-1100 http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/caloosahatchee/ Lee Caloosahatchee Regional Park (239) 338-3146 http://www.leeparks.org/facility-info/facilitydetails.cfm?Project_Num=0253 Lee J.N. Ding Darling NWR (239) 472-1100 http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/ Lee Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve (239) 463-3240 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/estero/ Lee Lakes Regional Park (239) 432-2000 http://www.leeparks.org/ Lee Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve (239) 432-2004 http://www.leeparks.org/sixmile/ Lee Hickey's Creek Canoe Trail (850) 488-3701 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/ westcentral/trails/hickey.htm Lee Cayo Costa State Park (239) 964-0375 http://www.floridastateparks.org/cayocosta/ Florida, as well as the formation of the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. By 2,500 years ago, south Florida resembled the current natural environment and the people living there have been described as the Glades cultural tradition. The Glades tradition was subdivided into three major geographical groups: the Okeechobee Region, the Glades Region, and the Caloosahatchee region. Of the various Glades tradition peoples, the Calusa were the most powerful and dominant society. However, the Calusa were devastated by diseases introduced by European explorers and by 1700, the Calusa nation had declined from 10,000 to 2,000 people. In 1704, the Spanish attempted to ferry 280 remaining Calusa to Cuba for safety; most died on the
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 6 way and for all practical purposes, the Calusa had become extinct. During the 1700s, another group of Native Americans, the Creeks, moved southward into central and south Florida. These people became known as cimarrones, Spanish for wild ones or runaways. This word became Seminole in the native Muskogean tongue. Until 1821, the Creeks/Seminoles prospered in Florida under Spanish rule, but the 1800s brought turmoil. The natives resisted suppression by American forces during the Seminole Indian Wars until finally being defeated in 1858, when nearly all of the Seminoles were relocated to reservations in Oklahoma. An estimated 200-300 remaining Seminoles sought refuge in the isolated southern Florida swamps. Today, their descendants occupy the Brighton, Immokalee, and Big Cypress Seminole Reservations. Pioneers of European descent began to settle south Florida in the midand late-1800s. In the late 1800s and 1900s, wetlands drainage allowed extensive agriculture and ranching in the area. More recent events include the construction of Alligator Alley (US I-75) across the state, which cut across the Everglades. Freezing temperatures in central Florida during the 1980s devastated citrus groves and resulted in a major shift of the citrus industry to southwest Florida, increasing citrus acreage from approximately 40,000 acres in 1970 to 180,000 acres in 2000. Coastal south west Florida also is one of the fastest urbanizing regions of the country. Between 1960 and 2000, human population increased 10-fold from 90,000 to 900,000 people. Almy M., and G. Luer. 1987. Guide to the Prehistory of Historic Spanish Point in Southwest Florida. Allen, G.M. and M.B. Main. 2005. Florida's Geological History. Fact Sheet WEC 189, Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Blanchard, C. E., and C. Merald. 1995. New Words, Old Songs : Understanding the Lives of Ancient Peoples in Southwest Florida Through Archaeology. IAPS Books. Bolton, H. E., A. L. Hurtado. 1996. The Spanish Borderlands : A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest, University of New Mexico Press. Bucuvalas, T., P. A. Bulger, and S. Kennedy. 1994. South Florida Folklife. University Press of Mississippi. Cerulean, S. and A. Morrow. 1998. Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide. Falcon Publishing. Helena, MT. Cushing, F. H. 2000. Exploration of Ancient Key-Dweller Remains on the Gulf Coast of Florida, University Press of Florida. Gainesville, FL. Fernald, E. A. and E. D. Prudum, eds. 1998. Water Resources Atlas of Florida. Institute of Science and Public Affairs. Tallahassee, FL. Gannon, M., ed. 1996. The New History of Florida. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, FL. Jewell, S. D. 1997. Exploring Wild South Florida : A Guide to Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Southern Peninsula and the Florida Keys, Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Kavanagh, J. ed. 1997. The Nature of Florida : An Introduction to Common Plants & Animals n& Natural Attractions (Field Guides Series) Waterford Press, Phoenix, AZ. Kleinberg, E. 1997. Historical Traveler's Guide to Florida. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Laurie M., and D. Bardon. 1998. Florida's Museums and Cultural Attractions. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, FL. Main M.B., and G.M. Allen. 2005. Florida State Symbols. Circular 1467, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 7 Main M.B. M.E. Swisher, J. Mullahey, W. DeBusk, A. J. Shriar, G. W. Tanner, J. Selph, P. Hogue, P. Bohlen and G. M. Allen. 2004. The Ecology and Economics of Florida's Ranches. Fact Sheet WEC 187, Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. Main M.B., and G.W. Tanner. 1999. Effects of Fire on Florida's Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat. Fact Sheet WEC 137, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu. McGoun, W. E. 1993. Prehistoric Peoples of South Florida. Univ. of Alabama Press, AL. McPherson, B. F. and R. Halley. 1996. The South Florida Environment. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134, Denver CO. Meyers, Ronald L. & John J. Ewel, eds. 1990. Ecosystems of Florida. University of Central Florida Press. Orlando, FL. Milanich, J. T. 1998. Florida Indians from Ancient Times to the Present. University of Florida Press. Gainesville, FL. Milanich, Jerald T. 1995. Florida Indians and the Invasion from Europe. University of Florida Press. Gainesville, FL. Ohr, T. 1998. Florida's Fabulous Natural Places. World Publications, Tampa, FL. Perry, I. M. 1998. Indian Mounds You Can Visit: 165 Aboriginal Sites on Florida's West Coast. Great Outdoors Pub Co, St. Petersburg, FL. Perry J., and J. G. Perry 1992. The Sierra Club Guide to the Natural Areas of Florida. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, CA. Randazzo, A. F. and D. S. Jones, eds. 1997. The Geology of Florida, Univ. of Florida Press, Gainesville, FL. Ripple, J. 1997. Florida: The Natural Wonders. Voyageur Press, Osceola, WI. Salisbury L. G., and J. Salisbury 1998. The Tabby House Breezy Guide to Charlotte County Florida, Tabby House Publishing, FL. Storter, R, B. S. Briggs ed., and P. Matthiessen. 2000. Crackers in the Glade: Life and Times in the Old Everglades, University of Georgia Press. Winsberg, M. D. 1997. Florida's History Through Its Places: Properties in the National Register of Historic Places, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, FL. Florida Division of Historical Resources, http://www.flheritage.com/ Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission Wildlife Viewing Sites, http://www.myfwc.com/recreation/View_index.htm Florida Natural areas Inventory, http://www.fnai.org Florida State Parks, http://www.floridastateparks.org Florida's Historic Places, http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/florida/lessons/places.htm Florida's Museum of Natural History, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/ Florida Water Management Districts, http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/fgils/wmd.html Leonard, M. C. B., Illustrated guide to Florida-West Coast. http://floridahistory.org/flawest.htm Museum of Florida History, http://www.museumoffloridahistory.com/ Touring the Georgia-Florida Coast, http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/geo-flor/gfintro.htm P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, http://web.uflib.ufl.edu/spec/pkyonge/index.html
Florida's Environment Southwest Region 8 Randell Research Center at Pineland, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/anthro/sflarch/calusa_8/ pineland.htm South Florida Archeology Study, http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/anthro/sflarch/ swflarch.htm#TopTamiami Trail Scenic Highway, http://www.dot.state.fl.us/emo/fshp/designated/ tamiami.htm Visit Florida, http://www.visitflorida.com