Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA)
Mesic and Wet Flatwoods Baseline Monitoring Begins
By Brian Pelc, Restoration Project Manager/ARSA Coordinator, The Nature Conservancy
Thanks to the generous support of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to the Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA), baseline vegetation monitoring will begin at the jointly managed Flint Rock WMA, with a similar effort using the same protocol to follow at Tyndall Air Force Base. A coalition of biologists and land managers in the ARSA region developed a protocol for assessing vegetation changes during conversion/restoration of off-site pine plantations back to wet and mesic longleaf flatwoods. The long-term goal is to compare conversion strategies (i.e., clear-cuts, gap thinning, row thinning, shelterwood thinning) across numerous sites in the Florida panhandle and beyond. ARSA leaders identified major knowledge gaps in how best to restore these highly competitive environments in the 2017 ARSA Longleaf Conservation Plan. Many previous efforts in ARSA flatwoods projects have failed when plantation ground layer, having shifted towards shrubby, unburnable species and away from burnable and characteristic native grasses and wildflowers by decades of fire suppression, shade out young longleaf and drive up seedling mortality within a few short years. By comparing impacts on fine fuels, shrub density, overstory light availability, and other metrics, ARSA managers hope to build the flatwoods conversion toolbox used around the range.
ARSA Partners and Florida Natural Areas Inventory staff “at the board room,” discussing a test drive of a new monitoring protocol currently deployed at Flint Rock WMA and soon repeated at Tyndall AFB and elsewhere across ARSA’s numerous flatwoods locations. Photo by Brian Pelc.