Subtropical Florida Plan
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Subtropical Florida
(Area - 1,959,800 ha)

Executive Summary

Subtropical FloridaDescription - This physiographic area is entirely contained within Florida, and extends from the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee south through the Florida Keys. The region has very little topographic relief, but slight changes in elevation have important consequences for vegetation and the diversity of habitat types. The highest points of elevation are less than 2 meters and correspond with fairly recent shorelines (less than 5,000 years before present). Underlying sediments consist of freshwater marl, peat, freshwater lake and marine sediments, and to a lesser extent, sand deposited during the Pleistocene and Holocene.

The subtropical Florida region can be divided into four smaller sub-regions: 1) the Everglades, 2) Big Cypress, 3) Miami Ridge and Atlantic Coastal Strip, and 4) Southern Coasts and Islands. The Everglades is the most extensive of these areas, followed by the Big Cypress, Miami Ridge and Southern Coasts. Across all subregions, much of the physical and ecological characteristics of the region resemble tropical ecosystems where seasonal changes are reflected by changing rainfall patterns rather than by dramatic temperature changes. Distinctive dry (winter/spring) and wet (summer) seasons occur annually, and the nesting cycles of many birds are tied to these changes.

At least two major forms of disturbance play key roles in the ecology of the region. Fire is an important feature in many pine dominated communities and many marsh and prairie communities. Frequent fires are essential in pine-dominated stands and prairies if understory conditions suitable to many nesting birds are to be maintained. However, the ideal fire frequency in some pine communities is not known. Hurricanes are a second form of disturbance that less frequently but predictably provide early successional habitats or open forest cover.

Priority Bird Populations and Habitats
Pine forests (including Pine Rocklands, Pine Flatwoods, Sand Pine Scrub)
PIF Florida Scrub Jay Currently extirpated here.
PIF Red-cockaded Woodpecker
PIF American Kestrel Southeastern U.S. subspecies; currently extirpated here.
PIF Brown-headed Nuthatch Nearly extirpated here. 
PIF Bachman's Sparrow Nearly extirpated here.
PIF Palm Warbler Non-breeding seasons.
PIF Sedge Wren Non-breeding seasons. 

Grassland/grassland-scrub (including dry prairie and coastal strands)
PIF Grasshopper Sparrow Florida subspecies; extirpated here.
PIF Crested Caracara Florida populations.
PIF Burrowing Owl Florida subspecies.
PIF Sandhill Crane Florida subspecies.
PIF Mottled Duck

Subtropical deciduous forest
PIF Short-tailed Hawk Florida population.
PIF Swallow-tailed Kite Southeastern U.S. subspecies.
PIF White-crowned Pigeon
PIF Gray Kingbird

Everglades, brackish saltwater and freshwater marsh
PIF Snail Kite Everglades subspecies.
PIF Seaside Sparrow Cape Sable subspecies.
PIF Wood Stork Southeast U.S. population.
PIF Black Rail
PIF Reddish Egret
PIF Yellow Rail Non-breeding seasons.
PIF White Ibis
PIF Clapper Rail

Mangrove Swamps
PIF Prairie Warbler Florida subspecies.
PIF Yellow Warbler Cuban subspecies.
PIF Black-whiskered Vireo
PIF Mangrove Cuckoo

Complete Physiographic Area Priority Scores (Zipped, Dbase5 file 288K)
Key to Abbreviations: AI-Area Importance, PT-Population Trend, TB-Threats to Breeding. Priority Setting Process: General / Detailed

Conservation recommendations and needs - Human population growth has been phenomenal in subtropical Florida for the last 40 years. The impacts of such tremendous growth include increased infrastructure that directly reduces habitat availability, but also secondary impacts to bird habitats, such as pollution. Other land uses include production of sugarcane, winter vegetables, and citrus. Drastic changes in hydroperiod and natural water cycles are secondary impacts of increasingly intensive agriculture.

However, among the best opportunities in the Southeast to work with existing public lands occur in Subtropical Florida, where over 54% of the area is publicly owned. Therefore, primary conservation programs include efforts to reduce impacts from adjacent or nearby lands on management of existing public lands. Many programs have been developed and are in various phases of implementation. These include the Save our Everglades program, the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act, Florida’s Everglades Forever Act and the development of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force as well as aggressive acquisition programs. These and other programs serve the basis for bird conservation efforts in the region.

Physiographic Area Map
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Please send comments to:
Dean Demarest, PIF Southeast Regional Coordinator