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Florida's Ancient Islands

Florida's Ancient Islands stretch for over 100 miles down the middle of central Florida. These relic sand dunes created over thousands of years by the dynamic movements of sea, ice and wind now provide refuge for rare and endangered plants and animals. Glacial changes and the rising and falling of the oceans caused dramatic transformations on the Florida peninsula. 

Covered almost completely by water two million years ago, only a series of small islands existed in an expansive ocean. It is these islands that make up today's Lake Wales Ridge. Wildlife and plants once isolated on these islands evolved extremely unique characteristics. Although these waters have receded, the islands continue to support distinctive life forms.

Although consisting of a variety of habitats from low and wet bayheads to high and dry sandhills, the ridge is most famous for its scrub habitat. The scrub consists of clusters of shrubs scattered between patches of open sand. The lack of canopy cover and very deep porous sands create a hot, dry, desert like habitat. Life in the scrub can be tough, and its inhabitants have developed a variety of unique adaptations in order to survive. One of the best known residents of the scrub is Florida's only endemic bird the Florida Scrub-Jay.

Florida Scrub-Jay. Photo by Jonny Baker.

Many challenges face the future of these ancient lands. By becoming a Ridge Ranger, you can help ensure the protection of this fragile and special ecosystem.

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