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St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve - Ecological Restoration and Protection of Native Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions

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The natural systems that occur on Buffer Preserve lands form a complex mosaic of natural communities that are not managed independently of each other. Most natural communities that occur on the Buffer Preserve are fire dependent or fire-adapted. The preserve's fire dependent communities include sandhill, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, and wet prairie. The frequent application of prescribed fire is the single most important and cost-effective management tool used to benefit listed species and promote biodiversity in those communities. The reintroduction of fire to the Buffer Preserve's natural systems is essential to the recovery and survival of all the listed plant species. Equally important is public awareness and acceptance of the benefits of an active prescribed fire program even with the short-term inconveniences such as smoke and road closure. The Buffer Preserve staff are committed to applying scientific monitoring to understand the implications of its fire management program on habitats and species composition.

Some natural communities are greatly impacted by hydrology changes as well as fire frequency. These communities include wet prairie, basin swamp, and dome swamp. Natural communities that are not fire dependent are beach dune, coastal strand, and shell mound. These natural systems are highly vulnerable to loss due to human development as well as vehicle and foot traffic. With proximity immediately adjacent to the shore or coastline, these systems also serve as the first line of defense during severe storms and natural disturbances and serve as pathways for population and communication fluctuation due to climate change. Buffer Preserve staff will work with Division of State Lands  acquisition staff as well as other agencies to pursue acquisition of surrounding properties that contain these natural communities and/or are adjacent to the shoreline.

Listed species occurring in the preserve depend on fire for survival. Care will be taken in the placement of fire lines to minimize the impact of critical transition zones where most of the Buffer Preserve's listed plants occur. Potential sites for trails, campsites, and other visitor activities will be surveyed for listed species prior to establishment of facilities. Staff will work in conjunction with Florida Natural Areas Inventory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and other interested parties should the need for specific species management arise. Field observation, research, and formal resource surveys will be conducted as time and funding allow. Information gathered will be used in developing, implementing, and monitoring management activities, and will be maintained in the Buffer Preserve's linked database-GIS and shared with appropriate agencies.

In the event of a wildfire, response actions should be less disruptive to the land than the disturbance caused by the fire itself. Appropriate strategies may range from suppression and minimization of acreage burned, to more direct methods such as containment and confinement. Surveillance is appropriate when the fire is expected to be self-contained within a defined area and when minimal drainage to critical resources can be expected. Reported wildfires will be handled by the Buffer Preserve manager and staff, the Florida Forest Service, and the local fire department.

Last Modified:
July 14, 2023 - 4:27pm

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