Apalachicola River - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. Several types of natural communities provide habitat for fish and wildlife found at Apalachicola River. The river and its associated streams, marshes and floodplain forests provide habitat for a variety of sport and commercial fish populations. Apalachicola Bay produces over 90 percent of Florida's oysters and is a major nursery for blue crabs and marine fishes. Unique and outstanding habitat, including that of some rare and endangered plants and animals, is also found within the WEA.
The upland plant communities of the Apalachicola River WEA were historically pine flatwoods with a much more open and grassy appearance than today. Prior to state ownership, the natural water flow was altered to improve conditions for intensive commercial slash pine production, which replaced the original pine flatwoods. Natural fire was suppressed and dense brush replaced the grassy groundcover. Significant restoration has occurred throughout the area including re-establishing historic water flow through the installation of hardened low water crossing, culverts and ditch plugs. Along with other management practices such as commercial thinning, invasive plant control, replanting of longleaf pine and reintroduction of a natural fire regime, natural vegetative communities have been restored. Several rare plant species occur on the property.
The FWC works with the Florida Forest Service on the restoration of selected upland sites and with the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on hydrological restoration.
Annual springtime plantings include food plots for dove, quail, turkey, deer and other wildlife, with additional fall grain crops planted for deer and small game.
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.
In 2020, the State of Florida, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, acquired over 20,000 acres of land surrounding Lake Wimico. This parcel is crucial to the protection of several species, including the Florida black bear, manatee, swallow-tailed kite, bald eagle and many species of wading and shore birds. Management practices of the area will be extended to help return these new lands to their historical state.