26 March 2008

Prescribed Fire Collaboration is Enhancing Endangered and Threatened Species Habitat

The mechanical treatment and prescribed fire in the Titusville Wellfield natural scrub community is demonstrating success. The once overgrown scrub habitat is being restored to optimal condition. Federally listed threatened Florida Scrub-Jays, state listed Threatened Gopher Tortoises, and the state listed Endangered Dicerandra thinicola (Titusville Mint) are colonizing the newly restored/managed burn block. The mechanical treatment and prescribed fire were conducted in a collaborative team effort and with a grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to the City of Titusville, who owns the large wellfield refuge.

Summary of Dicerandra thinicola Initial Response to Management Treatments at the Titusville Wellfield

Eric Menges, Suzanne Kennedy, Stacy Smith
21 February 2008

We have completed two censuses in our Dicerandra thinicola plots (November 2007, February 2008) since the chopping and burning treatments were imposed during the summer of 2007. Although we have not analyzed these data, we thought it would be useful to share our observations.

We were able to relocate all of our study plots that had been previously set up in the treatment area using GPS.

Many D. thinicola plants survived the partial uprooting caused by the mechanical chopping treatment and the subsequent patchy fire. The surviving plants appear quite healthy; many flowered profusely in the fall of 2007 and many have grown very large, with large vegetative flushes, since the disturbances.

New D. thinicola seedlings have appeared in many of the treated plots. The seedling numbers vary from none to many hundreds of new seedlings per plot. The positive response of seedlings this winter may reflect favorable weather conditions; and drier winter conditions in other years might mean that D. thinicola seedling responses to treatments would not be as good.
We don’t know how this species would respond to fire-only (without initial mechanical fuel reduction treatment). Fire produces positive seedling responses in D. thinicola’s congener D. frutescens (which occurs over 150 miles away on the Lake Wales Ridge). We would, therefore, predict D. thinicolat’s seedling response to also be strongly positive from a fire-only treatment. We would expect that chopping, without subsequent fire, would not produce a strong seedling response.

New seedlings appeared within plots that previously had plants and also in one of our plots that only had nearby plants outside the plot (a few meters away). Large areas of treated scrub habitat that lacked plants before treatments still lack plants. This emphasizes the limited dispersal ability of D. thinicola. We believe that active seed introductions will be necessary to substantially expand the spatial coverage of D. thinicola. We are interested in trying seed introductions in conjunction with the next round of treatments.

We have added two new study plots in areas that are not slated for the next round of treatments as controls, so we can continue to have a basis for comparison of D. thinicola responses.

07 March 2007

Offering wetland consulting services

Floravista's team includes certified wetland delineators and a Professional Wetland Scientist. Floravista is experienced in Florida wetland delineation, permitting, and mitigation. Our project experience is in the St. Johns River Water Management and the South Florida Water Management Districts. We conduct wetland determinations and formal wetland delineations and have a sound scientific reputation with the regulating government agencies (the water management districts, US Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and local governments). We expedite permitting for wetland impacts, preservation, and mitigation by implementing the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM), as required by the Florida Administrative Code. We write wetland mitigation, management, enhancement, and restoration plans.

Offering Certified Arborist Consultation

We offer Certifed Arborist Consulting Services. As an Arborist certified by the International Society of Arborists, we can assist with tree health assessments, recommendations for improving tree structure, vigor, and hurricane preparedness. For the Land Developer, we prefer to inventory the trees on your site prior to your surveyor mapping the trees. We review the jurisdictional tree preservation, land clearing and landscaping ordinances to determine the specific tree assessment categories necessary for your project to be successful. Please email/call to inquire.

23 November 2006

Program aims to restore refuge

Suzanne Kennedy is part of this collaborative effort between the City of Titusville and other partners to restore public land habitat for several endangered animal and plant species. and reduce the forest fuel load that potentially could lead to a catastrophic fire in an urban interface. The team plans to implement mechanical treatment late 2006 to thin trees and follow that first step of fuel reduction with a prescribed fire for further fuel reduction and to create the sandy open pathcs that support an abundance of rare species. Below is the unedited article from the local newspaper.

Florida Today - Melbourne, FL - August 2, 2006 ... You can only find the Florida scrub jay in Florida, while the Titusville balm, a small brushy plant with purple blooms, is known to exist only in Brevard County ...

August 2, 2006 Program aims to restore refuge BY JESSICA RAYNOR FLORIDA TODAY

The land looks pristine, a bastion of nature surrounded by development on Barna Street.

The smell of mint lingers in the air as crickets chirp and a light breeze worries leaves on the dense scrub oak foliage.

But this seemingly ideal mini-nature refuge -- a city water-well field -- is anything but perfect for two of its unique residents -- the threatened scrub jay and the rare Titusville balm plant. Severe overgrowth shadows the ground, hiding food and predators from the scrub jay, and the Titusville balm fights for space with ground vegetation.

So, later this year, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will fund a series of controlled burns aimed at returning the land to its natural state, while reducing wildfire danger to nearby homes and several of the city's drinking water wells.

"Right now in those well fields you've got extreme fuel loads," said Dean Pettit, chairman of the Titusville Environmental Commission. "You've got civilization within close proximity. That's the last thing you want to catch on fire. It would be an intense situation."

The USFW program Partners for Fish and Wildlife will provide $25,000 of the project, with several groups, including the city fire department, the Environmental Endangered Lands Program in Melbourne and the Nature Conservancy, kicking in manpower and know-how.

"It's truly a partnership," said Jay Herrington, state coordinator for the Partners program.

Private landowners -- or anyone who doesn't claim state or federally-owned land -- can propose projects to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, which earmarks money for the top plans. Last year, Partners for Fish and Wildlife helped improve 11,879 acres at 16 sites across Florida.

Brevard County natural resource maps list the land as a Xeric Scrub Habitat. Because of a lack of vegetation-clearing natural fires, the land has become crowded with scrub oak and undergrowth. USFW chose the site because it is large, at 250 acres, and it should support a population of scrub jays, Pettit said.

That makes it unique. You can only find the Florida scrub jay in Florida, while the Titusville balm, a small brushy plant with purple blooms, is known to exist only in Brevard County.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife first plan to help with the mechanical reduction of the fuel load, knocking down trees and chopping up vegetation, said CalLee Davenport with USFW. Once those dry out, a delicate and detailed controlled burn will begin, headed by the fire department and taking on the acreage piece by piece over several years.

After 10 years, the land should be close to its natural state -- hosting scrub jay families that eat acorns, Pettit said. And fire danger will be greatly reduced, he said.

"It's good for the species and public safety," he said.

22 February 2006

Make Your Yard Florida Friendly Seminar, Titusville, FL

Creating Cohesive Native Landscapes

Suzanne Kennedy, Floravista, Inc., will be speaking at the Enchanted Forest, Titusville, on February 25, 2006 at 10:45 on a palette of native plants in Florida xeriscaping and residential design landscape ideas.

She will be volunteering to give this presentation for the annual Titusville Florida Friendly Yard Program. Floravista will have a table outside with free information and some demonstrations. Please stop by.

The Florida Friendly Yard Program is from 9 am until 1:30 pm and free to the public. Florida friendly plants will be on display and for sale. Enjoy a hike or the museum at the beautiful Enchanted Forest following the program.

For more information on this event:

20 February 2006

Connect to Floravista with LinkedIn

Learn more about Floravista and become connected at Linked In:

09 May 2005

See Floravista presentation at the Native Plant Society Conference May 14, 2005

Suzanne Kennedy, founder of Floravista, Inc., presented at the Florida Native Plant Society's (FNPS) Silver Anniversary Conference in Melbourne, Florida, on May 14, 2005.

"Composing Cohesive and Beautiful Native Landscapes: case studies implementing ecology, organization, and structure."

Presentation description: Grouping native plants in their natural associations provides design and habitat enhancement opportunities unavailable with non-native species. Cohesive landscapes that result from appropriate assemblages command aesthetic and practical appeal. Using case studies from four "Eco-friendly" Florida subdivisions and 5 private residences, Suzanne will demonstrate landscape design concepts ranging from re-creation of the picturesque landscapes of real Florida to creating formal designs with a broad palette of fascinating natives.

Floravista is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the natural ecological processes of sites within the context of the surrounding ecosystem. In its first year, Floravista has accomplished native landscape design, project management, and educational literature for developers of eco-friendly subdivisions, homeowners associations, and residential customers.

Suzanne Kennedy is a plant ecologist recognized for endangered plant conservation and holds M.S. and B.S. degrees in Biological Sciences with specializations in tropical botany and ecology. She currently serves as Chair of the FNPS Conservation Committee, which offers small conservation grants among other programs. For more information on what the FNPS Conservation Committee offers, visit: http://www.fnps.org/pages/programs/programpg_no_pic.php?keyword=Conservation.

06 January 2005

Sterile landscapes vs. Floravista-scapes

Everywhere you drive in Florida you see endless sun-beaten lawns punctuated by a sporadic palm and edged by wall-like hedges and splats of neon-colored Impatiens. Some of these lawns are overgrown and complicated by weeds; others are lush, almost blue-green, perfect, mono-specific expanses of one scientifically created turf cultivar. Amazement arises at the time, cost, water, chemicals, and energy spent to create a perfectly sterile lawn. The scientifically created turf cultivars are products of decades of government-funded and private research. Compared to their predecessors, the latest lawn cultivars may resist weeds or respond better to lawn maintenance practices, however, these scientific inventions consume intensive resources and sometimes harm the environment. Such manicured lawns may only supercede a sterile paved or built surface in environmental benefit measures. What a poor condition with which to compete for a so-called landscape.

Were these lawns part of old Florida, part of the natural Florida heritage? Is this what Florida is supposed to look like?

Floravista-scapes, alternatively, re-create the picturesque landscapes of real Florida. Natural assemblages of fascinating native plant species, organized by architectural elements, such as paths, observation points, water features, recreation areas, seating, grottos, bridges, and arbors, can form a lush, tranquil oasis. Not only an oasis for us, but an oasis for birds, butterflies, and wildlife. Each oasis, or habitat, that a Florivista-scape preserves or creates, cumulatively enriches and preserves Florida's namesake and rich natural heritage.

05 January 2005

Benefits of Native Plants

Native Plants
Native plants are those indigenous to the area in which they are growing, without arriving there due to human actions. Florida is rich in native plants, containing nearly 3000 species. Only 3 other states rival Florida in floral diversity. Natives have adapted to Florida’s environmental conditions, such as sandy soils and irregular rainfall, as long as Florida has existed. Florida’s animals, from invertebrates to mammals, have co-adapted with native plants. The result is a complex web of interdependence. Therefore, the continued survival of the wildlife we enjoy relies upon conserving native plants.

Watchable wildlife

Native plants are the best choice for attracting and nourishing our native wildlife because they provide the food and shelter that birds and butterflies need. They leaf-out, bloom, and fruit when our species need them most, and provide the nutrients and habitat to which our native animals have adapted throughout Florida’s existence.

Save Time, Money, Water, Energy, and Natural Resources
Growing native plants requires less maintenance and saves energy. Planted properly, they require little to no extra water or fertilizer. Pesticide is unnecessary since natives have been exposed to Florida's pests as long as they have existed in Florida, and continue to display resistance to insects and disease in our own yards.

Reduce Pollution
Maintaining turf and other ornamental non-native plants in Florida often not only wastes time, money, water, energy, and other natural resources, but also contributes to surface water and air pollution. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides end up in streams and creeks, polluting our water resources and fisheries. Fertilizers and lawn mowers use petroleum, a non-renewable resource, and lawn-mowing also adds to air and noise pollution and the global climate change.

Threats to Our Native Plants and Animals
One of the biggest threats facing natural habitat besides unsustainable development is the invasion of non-native, invasive plants. Early Florida settlers imported tropical, exotic plants or those with which they were familiar from other environments. Little did they know that some of these non-native plants would grow out-of-control, smother native plants and habitats, costing billions of tax dollars to battle. Perhaps it is human nature to assume that something new and exotic is always better. Now that what was once abundant is rare, people are coming around to appreciate and realize we need to save what is left.

A Solution
By preserving and planting native plants in your landscape, you are contributing to the restoration of important Florida habitats. By growing native plants, you are doing your part to conserve precious water and promote the native biological diversity of Florida’s unique natural heritage for our grandchildren to enjoy.

Bejaria racemosa

Bejaria racemosa (Tarflower), a native shrub in xeric (dry) upland Florida habitats. This beautiful flowering shrub is striking in the hot summers in scrub habitats in Florida. Florivista, Inc. captured this image at the Malabar Sanctuary in Brevard County in 2004, in an area that has been managed by prescribed fires.
Floravista, Inc.

Opuntia humifusa (Prickly Pear), a native Florida cactus in xeric (dry) Florida habitats. This species blooms profusely in Florida open sandy patches within scrub. Scrub requires periodic fires (3-10 years) to maintain open patches and habitat heterogeneity. With increased heterogeneity, one will observe increased plant species diversity, usually.
Floravista, Inc.

Design an eco-friendly landscape

Contact me via email (sk321@earthlink.net) to discuss your ecological needs. Floravista specializes in Florida and Caribbean plant species and landscapes and travels as necessary to consult and implement eco-friendly solutions in this region. I look forward to the opportunity of helping you achieve environmentally sustainable goals.

Suzanne Kennedy