of PANHANDLE FLORIDA
D. Bruce Means, Ph.D. Professor
Upland Ecosystems of the Big Bend--Wilderness
teach students and area residents 1) what the original upland native biotic
associations of the Coastal Plain were and how to recognize them; 2) what
the ruderal (man-made) ecosystems are that have largely replaced them
and how they got that way; and 3) how the physical forces of wind, water,
fire and substrate interact to affect the local occurrence of animals
and plants. The course integrates geology, meteorology, hydrology, biogeography,
and ecology in an attempt to give the student an overview about the biotic
character of the north Florida region, a subregion of the Coastal Plain.
The course format is
centered around six all-day Saturday field trips, usually on alternate
weekends, each preceded by a 3-hour evening lecture session. Students
are given a twenty-question essay final exam requiring one week to complete
at the end of the course.
Field trip itinerary:
# 1.Tallahassee Red
Hills-Tifton Uplands in northern Leon County, Florida and southern Thomas
and Grady counties, Georgia. Class meets in the parking lot behind the
Center at 8:30 AM. Travel to Tall Timbers Research Station. Stop #1. Agricultural
field, 1-, 2-year oldfields to demonstrate plant "succession." Stop #2.
Oldfield shortleaf pine/loblolly pine woodlands in 1-, 2-, 3-year burn
experimental plots to demonstrate the effects of the periodicity of fire
on oldfield vegetation. Stop #3. Fine fuels demonstration in shortleaf/loblolly/broomsedge
association. Stop #4. Oldfield shortleaf/loblolly forest in 15-year stage
with annual burning. Stop #5. Fine fuels demonstration in pure hardwood
(sweetgum) litter. Stop #6. Mature Beech/Magnolia forest at Woodyard Hammock;
explain dynamics of internal forest replacement, windfalls, "virgin,"
tropical lianas, 28 species of southern hardwoods, structural and composition
contrast with pine savannah vegetation, fire history, etc. Stop #7. Bruce's
pine/wiregrass plot: Longleaf, slash, shortleaf, loblolly adults and seedlings.
LUNCH. Stop #8. Drive to a longleaf pine forest either Wade Longleaf Forest,
Greenwood Plantation, or Melton Plantation; explain fire ecology of longleaf
and associated species of plants and animals, Gopher tortoise ecosystem
and ca. 100 ecological associates, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and associates,
Apalachicola Ravines beginning in Torreya State Park and The Nature Conservancy’s
Bluffs and Ravines properties in Liberty County. Demonstrate baselevelling
by gully erosion in Miocene clastics then to steepheads of Sweetwater
and Beaverdam creeks to demonstrate baselevelling by Florida's peculiar
steephead sapping in Plio-Pleistocene sand deposits of the upper Coastal
Lowlands. Stop #1. Examine from ridge crest to escarpment toe down eastern
valley wall of the Apalachicola River, explaining gully erosion and Florida's
unique mixture of Appalachian cove valley species and Torreya endemics,
animals and plants. Stop #2. Pick up lunch materials at country store,
then travel to headwater steephead of Sweetwater Creek and have lunch
in steephead. Demonstrate the unique valley forming process of steephead
action and begin explaining xeric-mesic-hydric slope/moisture gradient
affecting animal and plant distributions. Stop #3. Beaverdam Creek; demonstrate
variation in steepheads and walk out the sharp slope/moisture gradient
where the following native Coastal Plain communities are ordinated in
their natural relationships: xeric longleaf-scrub oak-wiregrass fire community,
then xeric oak-redcedar-scrub community, then mesic beech-magnolia forest,
then evergreen shrub zone, then mesic Star Anise-sweetbay forest creek
wetland. Develop model for stream hardwood forest community ordination
after Strahler Stream Classification system. Walk out lst order, 2nd order,
3rd order portions of Beaverdam Creek and examine slope hardwood forests.
Stop #4. Rare ridge crest hardwood forest of magnolia-pignut hickory and
other elements of the beech-magnolia association, naturally protected
from fire. Stop #5. Walk down first order stream on Traveller’s Tract
of TNC Bluffs and Ravines properties. Stop #6. Visit Alum Bluff on Nature
Woodville Karst Plain. Stop #1. Drive along drainage from C.P.D. to stadium,
out Lake Bradford Road, Springhill Road following city of Tallahassee
storm runoff surface stream and conduits leading to municipal sewage treatment
plants, explaining topographic-geologic features along the way. Stop #2.
City of Tallahassee spray irrigation field. Stop #3. Viewing Cody Scarp
at several points proceeding east on truck route. Stop #4. Blue Sink to
demonstrate sinkhole, piezometric surface of Floridian Aquifer, depth
of sands overlying limestone, proximity to Munson Slough and eutrophication
of groundwater. Stop #5. Gopher Sink showing fossil limestone reef, collapse
of subterranean cavern in dissolved conduit, depth of capping sands, slash
pine silviculture, evolution of blind cave crayfish. Stop #6. Big Dismal
Sink. Dark waters, isolated mesic slopes in the middle of xeric longleaf
woodland, collapsed cavern, seepage escaping perched water table, mechanisms
of overland dispersal of plants and animals. Stop #7. Munson Sand Hills
illustrating second growth longleaf pine-scrub oak-native groundcover
woodland on sandhills soils, turkey-blackjack-blujack-runner oak clonal
species, sharp dipping of limestones westward/major geologic-physiographic
break. Stop #8. Fisher Creek Drain showing subterranean stream capture
of a blackwater creek by solution cavities in limestone terranes, groundwater
recharge, cypress-tupelo gum forest. Stop #9. LUNCH at McBride's Slough
showing groundwater discharge by hydraulic head, calcareous spring and
stream hardwood forest. Stop #10. St Marks National Wildlife Refuge experimental
burn plots to demonstrate effects of season of fire on native longleaf
pine-wiregrass flatwoods community, demonstration of effects of interaction
between small changes in elevation, high water table, and plants and animals
to produce high beta diversity, flatwoods ponds, slash pine ecotone between
longleaf pine flats and pond pine wetlands, evergreen shrub community.
Stop # 11. Florida's unique sand pine-rosemary scrub community on ancient
coastal dune stranded on Pleistocene terrace. Entire day compares and
contrasts biota of the more youthful Coastal Lowlands physiography with
older Red Hills environments of the past two field trips (i. e. the effects
of limestone and calcium carbonate on topography and biota versus clastic
deposits of clay and sand).
Trip #4. Apalachicola
Lowlands biotic region south of Telogia Creek in Liberty County and coastal
processes. Stop #l. Review of silvicultural, oldfield, and native communities
along State Route 20 to Hosford. Stop #2. 60-year second-growth longleaf
stands in Apalachicola National Forest under control burn regime, red-cockaded
woodpecker sites. Stop #3. Coastal Plains Institute's 80-acre longleaf
restoration project west of Sumatra. Class will conduct a control burn.
Seepage bog demonstrating slope, perched water table, effects of seepage
on terrestrial biota, herb bog grading into shrub bog grading into stream
hardwood forest--all controlled secondarily by fires sweeping downslope
from longleaf upland. Stop #4. Walk into a relict sand body left over
from previous higher sea level stand. Stop #5. Visit sand pine scrub habitat
along U. S. 98 and other high sand deposits, and relict delta features
en route to Carrabelle. Optional if time permits: Stop #6. St. George
Island: Visit the barrier island topographic features and examine the
present-day coastal upland communties.
Trip #5. Marianna
Lowlands/Dougherty Plain karst plain and caves. The day is spent slowly
and carefully examining the air passages of several caves west of Marianna.
Subjects discussed: provenance of the karst plain; biotic distinctiveness
of physiographic region; formation of caves; joints, cracks and bedding
planes while actually standing in them; effects of light, moisture, temperature,
air pressure changes on cave biota; demonstration of epigean, twilight,
and troglobite animals and plants and their adaptations; viewing of blind
cave organisms in situ; nutrient inputs from detritus and guano; secondary
limestone deposits; Eocene-Oligocene-Miocene fossil beds; use of caves
by man. Florida’s small, walk-in caves are superb for developing a feeling
of ecosystem function because their physical dimensions are small. Caves
demonstrate the interdependence of plants and animals, import and export
of nutrients, and the control of the physical environment on biota.
To be announced. Each semester I choose a special field trip for the class
which features some important new environment, research project, or other
timely purpose. Examples from the past are: a trip to Eglin Air Force
Base; measurement of Hurricane Kate destruction of a virgin Atlantic White
Cedar forest; measurement of gopher tortoise response to fire on St. Marks
National Wildlife Refuge; census of 6,000 old growth trees on the Titi
Hammock Preserve in Grady County, Georgia.
Trips #5 & 6. Saturday/Sunday
overnight campout on Eglin Air Force Base. Day 1. Travel to Eglin to view
the largest stand of remaining old-growth longleaf pine forest left in
the world. Stop #1. Sand pine forest along Fla. Road 20. Stop #2. Old-growth
longleaf pine stand on Chochawhatchee Bay--rare example of longleaf pine
close to the coast. Stop #3. Jackson Guard Station for permit. Stop #4.
Liveoak Creek floating bog. Stop #5. Patterson Natural Area. Stop #6.
Miscellaneous stops to view longleaf pine/upland management on Eglin.
Stop #7. Visit an Eglin steephead to view slope hardwood forest (Southern
temperate hardwood forest). Stop #8. Camp out at Eglin put-in for Little
Boiling Creek. Day 2. Breakfast, then drive to Blackwater River State
Forest. Many stops along the way for viewing and discussing management
of second-growth longleaf pine on Citronelle Formation clays and sands.
Stop # X. Flat-top mountain.
Thursday night lectures
In addition to preparing the class
for each field trip, Thursday night lectures provide continuity between
trips by featuring slide presentations, handout materials, and blackboard
artistry to illustrate the major concepts and facts I want the student
to get out of the course. It is my goal that each student learns to understand
panhandle Florida in the context of all those factors that, over time,
have interacted to create the present mosaic of plant and animal distributions.
I expect the student to come away with a feeling for l) the major physiographic
regions of the panhandle and how these sometimes do and sometimes do not
coincide with biotic distributions; 2) the major plant and animal assemblages
that characterize the region, and how these vary; 3) the effects of fire
in sculpting the distributions of plants, especially; 4) the effects of
soil moisture in controlling plant and animal occurrence; 5) the biological
features that most characterize our region, and why; 6) biological features
of north Florida that are unique natural resources; 7) the impacts of
man on native communities and the ability to recognize edificarian communities;
8) what is a pre-settlement site in its pre-settlement ecological state
(or close to it); and 9) the trophic structure of local communities and
the flow of nutrients through communities from the physical world and