Apalachee - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Several natural communities provide habitat for fish and wildlife found at Apalachee. The WMA is divided into three zones. The largest and most diverse is Zone A, an expanse of longleaf pine and wiregrass interspersed with ponds, wetlands, lakeshore and small islands in Lake Seminole and agricultural fields. Zones B and C are primarily floodplain forest, small floodplain ponds and oxbows associated with the Chattahoochee River.
Nearly all management activity at Apalachee WMA occurs in the uplands within Zone A. The goal is to create mature, low-density stands of native pines with a diverse and healthy native groundcover maintained with prescribed burns every one to two years. Some stands of upland pine forest have served as wiregrass seed donor sites for other conservation areas.
Biologists also work to reestablish native wiregrass and longleaf pine on disturbed lands, such as agricultural fields and tracts of planted pines. Some areas of sandhill are being restored through the removal of hardwoods, thinning of pines and regular prescribed burning.
Nonnative invasive plants such as chinaberry, mimosa, tung oil, Chinese tallow and Japanese climbing fern are controlled through the use of environmentally safe chemicals and the careful use of heavy equipment.
There are over 525 acres of agricultural fields on the WMA. To mitigate the cost of maintenance, many fields are leased to local farmers who must leave at least ten percent of the agricultural crop for wildlife. Others are planted and managed by biologists to create forage and cover for wildlife. These fields are planted in small grains such as benne, grain sorghum and corn for quail and deer, and to serve as dove fields. Some fields are intentionally left fallow to provide nesting cover.
Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, directly hit Apalachee WMA on Oct. 10, 2018, and caused catastrophic damage to the trees on the area, resulting in the loss of 90% of mature longleaf pine in the uplands. Ongoing activities to address debris and to salvage timber removal remain a focus of management so that prescribed burning can resume safely and regeneration of pines can occur.