Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00002434/00001
 Material Information
Title: Habitat Loss, Florida's Changing Landscapes: Upland Forests
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Sprott, Patricia
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2001
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Date first published: February, 1995; revised: August, 2001."
General Note: "WEC 151"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00002434:00001

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WEC 151 Habitat Loss, Florida's Changing Landscapes: Upland Forests1 Patricia Sprott, Frank J Mazzotti2 1. This document is WEC 151, formerly Wildlife Special Series number SS-WIS-63, a series of the Department of Wildlife and Ecology Conservation, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Date first published: February, 1995; revised: August, 2001. Please visit the EDIS website at http://www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu. 2. Patricia Sprott was Wildlife Research Assistant, Wildlife Ecology, Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center, 3205 College Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33314, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville. Frank J. Mazzotti is Associate Professor, Wildlife Ecology at the same department and address. The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida/Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean. Introduction tThe wind whispers from the canopy overhead; the fragrance of pine needles wafts from underfoot; a woodpecker drums in the distance; a deer bolts through the underbrush. Florida's uplands once covered nearly half of the state with pine flatwoods and dry prairies, scrub and high pine, temperate hardwood forests, and South Florida rocklands. These uplands once provided habitat for an immense variety of wildlife. In recent years however, residential and agricultural development has caused the loss of most of the natural forests, while drainage (which alters the water table and hydro-period) and non-native species (which crowd out the natives) have decreased the value of much of the remaining wildlife habitat. The U.S. Forest Service, for example, has recorded an 88 percent decline in longleaf pine forests in just over 50 years. This forest type once covered 7.6 million acres-more than one-fifth of Florida's total area. Today these ecologically important pinelands cover less than one million acres. Without increased awareness and conservation efforts,we could witness the demise of Florida's upland forests in the very near future. Figure 1. Florida Upland Coverage Map Credits: Florida Gap Analysis Project, USGS-BRD, Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Florida Unrivaled Diversity tAs a peninsula extending from temperate continental zones to tropical seas, Florida's forest lands once offered diversity of wildlife habitats unrivaled east of the Mississippi. Longleaf pines in the north, oak scrub along the central ridge, and flatwoods, rocklands and tropical hardwood


Habitat Loss, Florida's Changing Landscapes: Upland Forests 2 hammocks in the southern-most portions historically supported red-cockaded and ivory-billed woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, black bears, Florida panthers, red wolves, indigo snakes, and other species. Many of these species are now considered threatened or endangered (some even extirpated), largely as a result of habitat loss and degradation. Unchallenged Destruction tFor the past 150 years, the destruction of Florida's upland forests progressed unchallenged. Extensive clearing began during the Civil War, when timber was used for the shipping industry. Continued settlement and population growth meant conversion of wooded uplands to other landuses, including commercial forestry, residential and agricultural development. Non-native species have since extensively invaded some areas, crowding out native species and presenting little value to native wildlife. Now, only a few stands resemble historic habitats and only a fraction of the original forested land and diversity survives. Pending Implications tTo some, this may seem to be a case of environmentalists lamenting the loss of a few trees and critters to the demands of progress. After all, we see plenty of pigeons, mockingbirds and lizards, and even a few snakes, and we are all tired of chasing raccoons, armadillos, and opposums out of our yards. But the implications are much greater. Loss of habitat means loss of biodiversity-fewer species or types of plants and animals. If we have only a few species of plants and animals, and something happens to one or two, the results can be catastrophic. All plants and animals are connected through the food web, so that when one plant or animal is removed, the loss affects those that eat it as well as those it preyed upon. Also, forests are intrinsic to life on the planet as we know it. Tree canopies reduce dust, smoke, noise, and carbon dioxide (a "greenhouse gas") from the atmosphere while, along with other green plants, produce oxygen and cooling effects. Tree roots help secure soil and prevent erosion. Forests are an integral part of the hyrological cycle; they regulate local weather patterns and provide the groundwork for a complex web of species associations. tThe gopher tortoise, which prefers longleaf pine forests, sandhills, and scrub habitats for burrowing, creates a niche for nearly 300 other species of vertebrate and invertebrate fauna, including the endangered eastern indigo snake. The loss of a single plot of upland habitat can destroy the home of one gopher tortoise, and have a rippling effect on the other animals that depend on a burrow for their home. The resultant loss of biodiversity de-stabilizes the environment, both for the critters and for ourselves. tAlthough there are more than 16 million acres of forested lands remaining in Florida, much of it is highly fragmented or has been converted to commercial plantations. Many species of wildlife disappear from fragmented forests because the remaining patches are too small to support an animal (especially larger carnivores, but even some songbirds have large ranges). Fragmentation can also create small parcels of forest that are simply too far apart for wildlife to utilize as a whole. Slowing the Trend tAlthough most of our upland forests are gone and some continued development of forested land is inevitable, the current trend can be slowed. Statewide conservation efforts currently underway include land acquisition and on-site protection, growth management legislation and restoration ecology. Equally important however is the effort that can be made by Florida residents. Become informed on development issues and vote accordingly. Get involved in environmental causes and make conscious consumer decisions. Visit Florida's county, state, and national parks continued use sends a message about their importance. Most importantly, spread the word! Literature Cited Cost, Noel. 1994. Personal communication. United tStates Department of Agriculture. Forest Service. Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. Ecosystems of Florida. edited by Ronald L. Myers and tJohn J. Ewel, 1990, 765 pp., University of Central Florida Press: Orlando, FL.


Habitat Loss, Florida's Changing Landscapes: Upland Forests 3 Means, D. Bruce. 1994. "Florida Uplands: Florida tScrub." Florida Wildlife. 48(3):9-13. Means, D. Bruce. 1994. "Florida Uplands: Longleaf Pine Forests." Florida Wildlife. 48(5):2-6. Mushinsky, Henry R. 1993. "Florida High-Pine Sandhill tCommunities." Florida Wildlife. 47(3):19-23.