Lafayette - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. At Lafayette Forest WEA, high-quality native plant communities include dome swamp, depression marsh, floodplain swamp, bottomland forest, hardwood forest, basin marsh, wet flatwoods, upland hardwood forest and scrubby flatwoods. An unnamed creek surrounded by floodplain swamp runs through the central portion of the WEA. Biologists are focusing on managing for native habitat diversity by emphasizing maintenance of the existing natural communities and restoration of disturbed areas. Since Lafayette Forest WEA was established to protect gopher tortoises within the Mitigation Park Program, restoration and enhancement of xeric soils communities (sandhill and scrubby flatwoods) are a resource management priority.
The natural plant species composition at Lafayette Forest has been altered by timber removal, site preparation for commercial pine production and fire suppression. After the property was purchased by the state, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory conducted surveys and mapped the current and historic vegetative communities. This information guides and prioritizes current management and restoration efforts on the area.
Upland pine forests that were transformed into pine plantations by the timber industry are thinned and reforested with longleaf pine and wiregrass or other species as appropriate. Degraded or disturbed bottomland hardwood sites are allowed to reforest naturally with native wetland oaks, hardwoods and other appropriate native plants. The reintroduction of prescribed fire is one of the most important management tools used by biologists to maintain and restore the native, fire-adapted plant communities. The construction of culverts and low water crossings will help restore natural water flow on the area. Nonnative, invasive plants such as Japanese climbing fern and mimosa are controlled using chemical and mechanical means.
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.