Florida Keys - Habitat and Management


The Florida Keys consist of small islands of limestone rock formed from ancient coral reefs rising a few meters above the sea. The tropical climate and the Gulf Stream have brought both tropical West Indian and temperate North American plants and animals to these islands. So far, plant surveys conducted on the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area properties have identified 76 rare plant species, 58 of which are listed as threatened or endangered. Many of the rare species are also designated as imperiled or critically imperiled, regionally, nationally, or globally.

Randy Grau

Lower Keys Freshwater WetlandsThe major natural communities on the area are tropical hammocks, mangrove swamp, and coastal salt marsh. In the Florida Keys freshwater resources are found only in the lower keys where small ponds and marshes are scattered amidst the hammocks where depressions in the underlying rock occur. Although these freshwater resources do not account for a large portion of the habitat, they are critical to wildlife.


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Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting

The primary management goal for the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area is to restore and protect the habitats of rare and endangered species. Eradication of invasive non-native plants, including lead tree, Australian pine, and Brazilian pepper, is an on-going project on the area. 

The Commission contracted with Audubon of Florida's Tavernier Science Center to inventory and study the habitat use of neotropical migrant songbirds in the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area. The study was completed in 2004.

Birds caught in mist netting
Birds caught in mist net

The Florida Keys are situated along a major migration route for neotropical migrant songbirds and may provide critical stopover habitat during both spring and fall migrations. Migrant songbirds may rely extensively on tropical hardwood hammock habitats in the Keys to refuel after over-water flights in spring and to prepare for southbound flights in the fall. The Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area provides stopover habitat for many neotropical migrants. Given the historic and continued loss of tropical hardwood hammocks throughout the Keys, local information is needed on the relative abundance, species composition, and habitat relationships of neotropical migrant songbirds.

This study provides the first systematic quantification of neotropical songbird migration in the Florida Keys and patterns of food availability and habitat use. This information will help to guide habitat management and bird monitoring protocols for the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area.

FWC Facts:
Wildlife viewing in Florida supports 44,623 full- and part-time jobs.

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