Habitat and Management

Prescribed Fire by Chris Tucker
Chris Tucker
Photo of Prescribed Fire

Planted slash and sand pine occupied over 90% of the area when FWC assumed management. Historically, these lands were in various stages of upland pine forest, sandhill, and upland mixed forest. Sand pine areas have since been cleared and replanted with longleaf pine and slash pine stands have been thinned to create a more open understory. Prescribed fire will help prevent invasion by hardwoods and will encourage the natural reseeding of wiregrass. Hardwood hammock, dominated by live oak, with water oak, wild cherry, sweetgum, and pignut hickory, is interspersed throughout the area, occupying low-lying basins and areas of poor drainage.

The hardwood swamps are regularly inundated wetlands generally consisting of sinkhole depressions or basin swamps that are tied to water level stages in the Suwannee and Alapaha rivers. Moist conditions associated with the river floodplain have contributed to the expansion of this plant community which is strongly dominated by pond cypress, with scattered black gum, red maple, and sweetbay. Understory and ground cover are usually sparse due to frequent flooding but sometimes include such species as buttonbush, lizard's-tail, and various ferns.

 Management

Suwannee Ridge was acquired with funds received through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Mitigation Park Program. The primary goal of this program is to provide an offsite mitigation alternative to land development interests. Developers have the opportunity to compensate for impacts to the gopher tortoise and other listed species populations by providing funds that are used for acquiring and managing other offsite upland communities. The FWC is responsible for all aspects of management at Suwannee Ridge and the primary goal is to promote habitat conditions most critical to meeting the life history requirements of the gopher tortoise, Sherman's fox squirrel and other listed upland species.

planting long leaf pine
Planting longleaf pine

The majority of the site consists of stands of slash or longleaf pine planted for commercial timbering operations and these will be restored to a longleaf pine-wiregrass community. Initial management actions included thinning established slash pine stands, clear-cutting sand pine areas, replanting longleaf pine, and initiating prescribed burning. While growing season fire will be used to control encroaching hardwood, other techniques such as herbicide application and selective mechanical removal (i.e. chain sawing) may be used. Infrequent but extensive flooding in low-lying areas typically marks high water events associated with the Suwannee and Alapaha rivers which have their confluence just west of the area.



FWC Facts:
Whooping cranes, the tallest of North American birds, stand nearly 5 feet tall. Their wingspan measures between 7 and 8 feet.

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