Moody Branch - Habitat and Management
Habitats provide the food, water, shelter and space animals need to thrive and reproduce. At Moody Branch WEA, the high-quality native plant communities include scrub, scrubby flatwoods, depression marsh and floodplain forest. The rare Florida golden aster occurs here.
Moody Branch, a small creek, meanders through the area and connects with the Little Manatee River. Many years of fire suppression in fire-adapted plant communities allowed hardwood species to encroach, reducing the suitability of habitats for wildlife. Row crops and pasture grasses replaced native vegetation in some sections of the property.
The WEA is managed in cooperation with Manatee County. Since Moody Branch WEA was established to protect gopher tortoises, Florida scrub-jays and other upland wildlife, restoration and enhancement of scrub and scrubby flatwoods habitats are a resource management priority. Biologists are reintroducing fire and using mechanical and chemical treatments to eliminate nonnative invasive plant species such as old world climbing fern, cogon grass, tropical soda apple, Caesar’s weed, skunk vine and Brazilian pepper. Regular banding and monitoring of a small population of Florida scrub-jays help biologists assess the success of restoration and management. Drainage ditches and embankments associated with past agricultural and cattle grazing practices have been backfilled to restore historic flow patterns and protect water quality in Moody Branch and the Little Manatee River. Agricultural fields in the north part of the property were the focus of an intensive groundcover restoration effort several years ago.
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.