Resource Management Activities
Restoration projects on any managed area refer specifically to the restoration of ecosystems, more specifically the restoration of ecosystem functions. Wetlands, for example, perform many functions including floodwater storage, pollution attenuation, groundwater recharge, and providing wildlife habitat. The objective on all managed areas is to restore selected areas to their former condition and function. Types of restoration include:
- Wetland creation and enhancement
- Removal of nuisance exotic plants and animals
- Upland rehabilitation
- Re-introduction of fire into fire-dependant natural communities
Prior to their purchase as environmental properties, the lands were managed for different goals including cattle grazing, timber operations, orchards, and future land development. Prescribed burning for grazing was typically done in the winter and often not conducted at all on lands set aside for logging or future development. The consequence of these actions was a reduction in the diversity of native species. This happened because winter burns do not mimic natural fire conditions.
Fires naturally occur in summer, often resulting from lightning strikes. Long-term suppression of summer fires transforms ecosystems into a condition for which the native flora and fauna are not well adapted. One of the goals of the ELD natural resource management is to reintroduce fire into fire-dependent ecosystems during the growing season.
Prescribed burns are applied in two phases: the initial "fuel reduction" phase and the maintenance "ecological burn" phase. Fuel reduction burns often occur in the winter when fuels are less volatile and the fire is easier to control. Ecological burns typically occur in the summer and mimic natural fire conditions.
The Pinellas County Wildlands Fire Team conducts prescribed fires on ELD and Park lands. These Pinellas County employees, representing several different departments, are well-trained through curricula developed and taught by the Florida Division of Forestry. To ensure safety, detailed prescriptions are approved prior to the introduction of fire into a natural area.
managed areas staff and dedicated volunteers constantly monitor the response of flora and fauna to various management activities on these properties. This provides feedback and increases our knowledge about the lands we manage. Initially, a comprehensive species inventory of all plants and animals present is conducted. As various resource management techniques are applied, the managed areas monitors subsequent changes using standardized, scientifically acceptable methodologies. Information learned is shared with other resource agencies and environmental professionals through professional organizations, meetings, conferences, and collaborative projects.
Examples of ecological monitoring include:
- Baseline inventories
- Spring and Fall butterfly counts
- Christmas Bird Counts
- International Migratory Bird Day
- Herptofauna array surveys
- Small mammal live trapping (using Sherman traps)
- Shorebird nesting and wintering surveys
- Visual records via photo-points
- Bluebird box surveys
- Incidental observations
managed areas conducts several long-term research investigations designed to support resource management activities. Through research, managed areas advances the scientific knowledge of environmentally protected lands, provides opportunities of professional advancement to students and other environmental professionals, and shares its experience and knowledge with other agencies and the scientific community. Located in Tarpon Springs is the Pinellas County Biological Field Station (PCBFS), a facility operated by managed areas. The PCBFS is a member of the Organization of Biological Field Research Stations, an association of about 180 field facilities dedicated to the biological research and education of natural lands, primarily in North and Central America.
Examples of long-term research include studies of:
- Catesby's Lily, Lilium catesbaei
- Tampa Butterfly Orchids, Encyclica tampensis
- Wetland rehydration via ground water augmentation
- Fish utilization of mosquito ditches
- Coyote habits at the urban/wild land interface