Experimental Restoration of Florida Scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge
   Eric Menges, Archbold Biological Station

Abstract: Habitat loss and degradation threaten Florida scrub. Restoration techniques in Florida scrub, especially on the Lake Wales Ridge, are poorly known. Therefore, experimental studies aimed at finding useful techniques for restoring Florida scrub are essential. These studies should have clear measurable goals, evaluate available techniques, examine the response of key species of a range of taxonomic groups, and utilize reference sites for comparison. The proposed study has all these characteristics. Experimentally restore 3 areas of Florida scrub (improved pasture, 2 levels of degraded scrub) using experimental techniques including grass control, reduction of overgrown shrubs, introduction of seeds and plants, and re-establishment of key attributes such as shrub cover, plant diversity, plant vital rates, scrub-jay breeding pair densities, gopher tortoise burrow densities, and abundances of sand skinks, Florida scrub lizards, and key invertebrate species. Closely document progress during the next 3 years of restoration. The expected benefits will be to provide the land management community with clear results on the effects of restoration treatments on responses of key species and critical community parameters. Increase densities and cover of key Florida scrub plants such as oaks and palmettos. Increase densities of listed Florida scrub plants such as scrub blazing star. In the areas treated, reduce exotic grasses, increase bare sand, reduce shrub heights, and increase abundances of Florida scrub-jays, sand skinks, Florida scrub lizards, gopher tortoises, and key invertebrates. Provide the basis for continuing restoration at the 2 study areas (Archbold Biological Station and the FFWCC-managed McJunkin Tract of the Lake Wales Ridge WEA). Our Approach will be to work within 50-m radius circular plots, 6 each in four areas (pasture, heavily disturbed scrub, lightly disturbed scrub, high quality scrub reference site). We have already collected pre-restoration data in these areas and begun pilot restoration treatments. Over the next 3 years, we will continue to use herbicide to control an exotic pasture grass and an invasive grass growing in disturbed scrub sites. We would also restore vegetation structure by cutting tall hardwood stems. We will continue annual introductions of seeds of Florida scrub plants, and make additional transplants of container-grown plants (grown by Nancy Bissett of The Natives). We will re-measure vegetation plots once and measure grass cover annually during the study. Vital rates of introduced scrub plants will be compared to reference populations with frequent sampling. We will also make detailed measurements of the responses of Florida scrub-jays, Florida scrub lizards, sand skinks, gopher tortoises, scrub pygmy mole crickets, and burrowing wolf spiders to restoration efforts.

Award Matching Funds Total
$195,377.00 $195,377.00 $390,754.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2009 7/1/2009 8/25/2012

Location: Highlands County