Box-R - 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 Box-R. The area’s tidal marshes, creeks, floodplain swamps, hammocks and pine uplands are part of a complex ecological system that includes the Apalachicola and Jackson rivers and Apalachicola Bay to the south. Box-R’s habitats attract diverse wildlife and help to ensure a supply of clean water for Apalachicola Bay, which produces over 90 percent of Florida's oysters and is a major nursery for blue crabs and marine fishes.
Slash and longleaf pine characterize small areas of natural pinewoods but the majority of Box-R’s uplands were planted in slash and loblolly pines anywhere from 6 to 34 years ago. Ditches built to drain wet areas and create drier conditions more suitable for timber production have altered the natural flow of water on the property. Extensive marshes border portions of the two rivers.
Box-R is managed for a diversity of wildlife species through timber management (thinning and reforestation), prescribed burning and hydrological restoration. Wildlife openings are maintained and enhanced to attract deer, turkey, rabbits, quail, dove and snipe. Selective openings are planted with native or non-invasive agricultural crops to provide wildlife viewing opportunities, dove hunting and high quality forage for deer, turkey, dove and quail.
Selected upland sites are being restored. Existing slash pine and loblolly pine plantations are grown out to harvestable sizes, commercially thinned and converted to longleaf pine where appropriate. The slash and longleaf pine flatwoods communities are managed with selective thinning and regular growing season burns to promote an open and grassy understory, with scattered saw palmettos and gallberry. Regular burns reduce hardwood competition, enhance pine seed germination, recycle nutrients and provide a diverse groundcover community for a variety of wildlife species. The growth of hardwoods and woody shrubs in clear-cut areas is controlled by chemical and mechanical means and prescribed fire. These openings are then replanted in longleaf pine or slash pine.
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.