Native Ground Cover Restoration (GCR)
The FWC is the lead manager of approximately 1.4 million acres of land that are part of the FWC's Wildlife Management Area system. Within the system are large patches of formerly agricultural and pasture lands. On many of these lands, the native plants were replaced by exotic grasses, such as bahiagrass and bermudagrass, which provided feed for cattle.
Around the state, FWRI Habitat Research biologists are working at 24 individual locations to restore the historic native flatwoods communities that covered these areas prior to human alteration. Biologists prepare the site for reseeding by removing exotic grasses and preparing the soil for planting. To collect the native seeds, researchers visit other Florida flatwoods communities and use a specialized piece of equipment called a Woodward Flail-Vac™ to remove seeds from the plants. Back at the restoration site, researchers use a Grasslander Seeder™ pulled behind a tractor to deposit the seeds into the soil.
By eliminating the exotic groundcover and replacing it with a functional native groundcover that is typical of a flatwoods ecosystem, researchers hope to enhance wildlife habitat and ecosystem functions. Habitat Research staff members will monitor each site for five years in order to track changes in the plant community and to evaluate the site with respect to the restoration objectives.
In order to enhance wildlife habitat and ecosystem functions, the Native Ground Cover Restoration program (GCR) works to restore degraded habitat, pasture, and agricultural lands to native ground cover. Restoration depends on the complete removal of exotic grasses which is accomplished by disking the ground and applying multiple herbicide treatments. Removal treatments are followed by the establishment of native vegetation by planting seeds collected from a donor site. Success of the project is evaluated on several factors including how well the native vegetation grows, the success in removing exotic vegetation, and encroachment of bahiagrass at the edges of restored areas.