Preserving the marshes and swamps on the Big Bend is critical to the quality of surface water entering the marine environment. Throughout the area are numerous freshwater springs, tidal creeks, small depression ponds, and freshwater marshes. The greatest diversity of natural communities is found on the Jena, Spring Creek, and Tide Swamp Units. Scrub is primarily found on the Spring Creek and Tide Swamp Units, with smaller patches on the Jena Unit. On Jena
numerous islands containing cabbage palm dot the salt marsh.
Virtually all of the forested portions of Big Bend were logged. The original longleaf pine was clear-cut and replaced with fast growing slash, loblolly, and sand pine until state purchase. Cypress stands logged during the first half of the century appear relatively natural and undisturbed except for remnant stumps of large cypress that once dominated the sites. Hardwoods logged more recently are in early stages of succession and are characteristically dense with little defined overstory.
Restoration of the sandhill community on Big Bend is challenging, expensive, and will take many years as virtually all the area was altered by clearcutting, close planting of slash, sand, or loblolly pine, and fire suppression. The diversity of plants and animals found in a sandhill community has been eliminated as little grows beneath the rows of planted pines. Without food or cover, wildlife is scarce.
Portions of disturbed sites are managed to benefit wildlife that thrives in early successional communities-southeastern American kestrel, red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, barred owl, great horned owl, eastern meadowlark, eastern bluebird as well as deer, turkey, quail, and dove.
In cooperation with the Florida Forest Service, FWC is restoring a portion of Tide Swamp. First the slash, sand, and loblolly pines are removed, then longleaf seedlings are planted. As the longleaf grows, periodic prescribed fires are conducted to reduce fuels, recycle nutrients, and minimize competition for moisture. The ultimate goal is an open pine stand with diverse groundcover and wildlife.