Tree islands provide critical habitat in the wetlands.
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Sawgrass marsh is the most prevalent natural community in Rotenberger WMA, but tree islands, sloughs and wet prairies are also critically important habitats for wildlife.
Prescribed burning helps maintain the marsh and tree islands.
Hydrological restoration on the area began in July 2001, when water deliveries from Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA 5) into the Rotenberger WMA began to restore a more natural water regime. STA 5 is part of 35,000 acres of engineered wetlands designed to capture and thus reduce phosphorus in the runoff from the vast sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee. Both FWC and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) conduct vegetation monitoring to determine the effects of the increased flows on the natural communities and work together to improve hydrology in the area. An operations plan is used to guide water management on the area, and the FWC also provides ecological water management recommendations to the SFWMD. Other hydrologic restoration activities in Rotenberger WMA have included the removal of old berms, canals and a drill pad access road. These changes helped restore sheet flow to the area.
Tree islands comprise only a small portion of the management area, but their restoration is essential to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. In the past, drainage and hydrological isolation degraded tree islands and other natural communities. FWC has been conducting tree island restoration activities in Rotenberger WMA since the early 1990s, including removing man-made structures, treating and removing non-native, invasive vegetation and planting native trees and shrubs. These activities, combined with prescribed burning, improve wildlife habitat.
In addition to the management work described here, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rely on a wide range of techniques to ensure that natural areas throughout the state stay healthy for wildlife and inviting to visitors.