Monitoring of native groundcover restoration sites
Prior to state acquisition, much of the land under the jurisdiction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) was used for cattle ranching, timber, and other forms of agriculture. As a result, former pastures, plantations, and croplands account for over 100,000 acres of FWC land. Abandoned pastures are one of the most common types of abandoned agricultural land managed by FWC. Dominated by exotic sod-forming grasses—primarily bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum)—these areas bear little resemblance to native plant communities and are inferior wildlife habitat.
The Native Groundcover Restoration (NGCR) program aims to restore vegetation typical of fire-dependent longleaf pine-wiregrass (Pinus palustris – Aristida stricta) savannas on abandoned pastures throughout the state of Florida. The NGCR program was initiated in 2005 and has since grown to include 17 restoration sites encompassing 1,800 acres. The first phase of restoration includes eradication/control of noxious exotic species and establishment of a fire-carrying native bunchgrass layer dominated by wiregrass. Our research group monitors plant community assembly on restored sites, providing managers with early feedback on native seed germination success and persistent exotic infestations, as well as longer-term data regarding the development of restored plant communities over time.