My group covered the biodiversity of the Apalachicola River System and how it affects the surrounding natural systems as a whole. We specifically focused on the Longleaf Pine habitat that once flourished in the uplands. With little of the forests left, we decided to set out on a journey to understand why there has been such a decrease and what is being done to help the forests.
We first visited Aaron Miller, the Park Manager for Torreya State Park who so kindly showed us around to view the different zones of restoration. He explained the importance of prescribed fire and its affect on some of the native and invasive species. As an example, the turkey oak is a tree that if not burned by natural or prescribed fire, could take over large areas of the Longleaf Pine habitat and leave little room and sunlight for the longleaf pines to grow. The wildfires are natural processes that have been around for as long as the habitat itself.
Later, Chen visited David Printiss at the Nature Conservancy to get a better understanding of a biological hotspot and the function of the Apalachicola River System on the Longleaf Pine habitat. David elaborated on the restoration process and just how much the Nature Conservancy has contributed to the habitat.
Lastly, we visited Todd Engstrom, an ornithologist and courtesy faculty member at Florida State University. Todd helped us expand our understanding of the wildlife in the habitat, more specifically, the red-cockaded woodpecker.
All in all, everyone we spoke to seemed to have one thing in common: a love for the Longleaf Pine habitat. I think I can speak on behalf of everyone in my group that we now have a better understanding and love for the habitat as well.
Aaron Miller showing Anthea and Lexie a tract of land that is currently under restoration.
Salvaged Longleaf pines stand among recently burned and timbered land in an effort to restore the natural habitat.
An entrance to state property that is currently under a lengthy plot-by-plot restoration effort. Apalachicola rosemary, a plant only found around the Apalachicola area, grows alongside the front of the fence.