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Hammocks

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Hydric hammock is the predominant habitat at Big Bend WMA; smaller areas of mesic, maritime and xeric hammocks are also present. Hydric hammocks are evergreen hardwood and/or palm forests with a variable understory dominated by palms and ferns. They occur on moist, poorly drained soils, often with limestone very near the surface. Three variants of hydric hammock occur at Big Bend, their occurrence is dependent on the distance from the coast and variation in hydroperiod. The typical hammock canopy includes swamp laurel oak, sweet gum, loblolly pine, red maple, black gum, American elm, sweetbay and cypress. The understory includes younger canopy species as well as cabbage palm, red bay, basswood, and water locust. Common shrubs are wax myrtle and yaupon.

 

Flatwoods.jpgFlatwoods

Mesic, scrubby and wet flatwoods occur at Big Bend WMA, but mesic flatwoods is the predominant habitat type. This community was substantially altered by past silvicultural activities, which replaced the mix of longleaf pine and slash pine with rows of slash or loblolly pine. Today, slash pine still dominates the canopy and subcanopy, but biologists are restoring these areas by thinning slash pines and planting longleaf pine seedlings within appropriate locations. The native groundcover persists despite past disturbances and much of it is coming back in response to prescribed fire. This includes shrubs such as saw palmetto, gallberry, shiny fetterbush, shiny blueberry and yaupon, as well as, wiregrass, Florida dropseed and other grasses.

 

Tidal-Marsh.jpgTidal Marsh

Tidal or salt marshes occur on all five units of Big Bend WMA, along its border with the Gulf of Mexico. Regularly inundated by tides and punctuated by numerous creeks, salt marshes are highly productive areas that are critically important for fish and wildlife.  At Big Bend, the habitat is dominated by needle rush, saltmeadow cordgrass, switchgrass, Gulf cordgrass, sand cordgrass, sawgrass and saltgrass. Shrubs are sparse and include marsh elder, groundsel tree, Christmasberry and wax myrtle.

 

Basin Swamp

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Found on level or nearly level areas with very poorly drained soils bordering rivers and low-lying areas that are submerged or saturated with water part of the year. Historically these areas were dominated by mature bald cypress; however, heavy logging during the first half of the 20th century removed most of the mature cypress. Today, this habitat on Big Bend is distinguished by a deciduous canopy of pond cypress, bald cypress, black gum and red maple. Other trees include slash pine, swamp laurel oak, sweet bay and dahoon. Virginia willow, wax myrtle and shiny fetterbush occur with saw grass, lizard’s tail and horned beaksedge. 

 

 

Depression Marsh

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Depression marshes are shallow, rounded depressions with herbaceous vegetation and shrubs and may occur in mixed flatwoods, wet flatwoods and hydric hammocks. They typically burn with the surrounding landscape and are seasonally inundated. On Big Bend WMA, depression marshes are dominated by sawgrass and needle rush, often with a fringe of sand cordgrass or saltmeadow cordgrass. Maidencane, pickerel weed and fragrant water lily may occur in deeper portions of some marshes. Coastal plain willow, wax myrtle or buttonbush often form a dense band on the marsh edges.

 

Sandhill

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Sandhills are characterized by upland pinelands on deep, sandy soils, usually with widely-spaced longleaf pines, a deciduous oak understory and a grassy, diverse groundcover. On Big Bend WMA, sandhills are found in the eastern edges of the area, primarily in the Tide Swamp, Spring Creek and Jena units. Prior to state ownership, longleaf pines were logged and replaced with slash or sand pine plantations in most of the sandhills habitat. Though this community type occupies a small percentage of the total landcover within the WMA, it is the focus of ongoing restoration that includes replanting longleaf pine and reintroducing prescribed fire because of the wide diversity of plants and wildlife this habitat supports.



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