TLA’s Wetland Ecosystem Support Team Exceeds Restoration Goals
January 27, 2023
In 2018, The Longleaf Alliance's Wetland Ecosystem Support Team (WEST) formed to restore isolated wetlands in the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP).
The longleaf landscape hosts many significant natural communities embedded within the “woods.” The connectivity of the landscape and ALL its parts improves the resiliency of our communities. Wetlands, in particular, provide essential ecosystem services in the face of climatic and ecological challenges including storm surge buffer, flood storage, and water filtration.
On top of these functions, wetlands have a high intrinsic value; if managed properly, they will provide high-quality habitat to numerous wildlife species, including many rare plants and animals.
Natural communities in the Southeast have a long history with fire. In fire-maintained wetlands, fire exclusion alters wetland tree canopy closure, shrub density, and litter accumulation resulting in impacts to vegetation composition, wetland productivity, solar radiation, water temperature, water chemistry, hydrology, and nutrient cycling.
Removing encroaching woody plants opens the canopy and facilitates the re-introduction of fire to improve embedded wetland habitat.
WEST Makes a Big Impact
December 2022 marked a milestone for GCPEP as the Wetland Ecosystem Support Team (WEST) completed a multi-year Florida State Wildlife Grant focused on restoration of priority isolated wetlands in the landscape.
WEST restored habitat with mechanical/chemical treatments and prescribed fire, working through very demanding weather and habitat conditions to get the on-the-ground restoration completed.
The Team's work far exceeded grant deliverables in all areas: mechanical/chemical treatment on 66 half-acre units (plus five additional units in progress) and prescribed fire on 31,716.38 acres. The work they completed benefitted many wildlife species, but especially the reticulated flatwoods salamander and the Florida bog frog.