Improve the conservation of native biodiversity.
The biodiversity associated with native plant and wildlife communities within and adjacent to Rookery Bay
National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR) boundaries is threatened by invasive non-native plants and animals,
suppression of natural fires, and the quantity, quality and timing of freshwater releases to coastal estuaries.
Habitat restoration is implemented through passive and active methods from seed dispersal by wildlife to staff
and volunteers replanting native species.
Worldwide, invasive non-native plant and wildlife species critically degrade natural processes within ecosystems
and are a direct result of human influence. Often they do not have the natural checks and balances (diseases,
pests, climate factors, predators, etc.) found in their native habitats. Unfortunately, RBNERR's natural lands
are not immune to these aggressive invasives of which Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, fire ants and wild hogs are
only some examples. Money and human resources (staff and volunteers) are perpetually necessary for fighting
these unrelenting exotics through physical, mechanical, chemical and prescribed fire removal methods.
Fire is not only a method for reducing non-native species, but periodic fire is also a significant factor
playing an important role in maintaining habitat value for wildlife, and species diversity within plant
communities. For example, fire controls successional processes in south Florida pine flatwoods, and
pine/cabbage palm/oak assemblages. In addition, fires recycle nutrients to the soils, induce seed
dispersal and germination in many native plants, and remove understory that can fuel dangerous wildfires
that threaten residential areas.
A consequence of urbanization adjacent to RBNERR is the suppression of natural fires to prevent destruction
of residential and commercial areas. Restriction of periodic fires disrupts the natural fire ecology necessary
to maintain biodiversity of upland habitats within RBNERR. Therefore, prescribed fire is a critical tool in
RBNERR's land management.