Restoring Pine Rockland in South Florida
Pine rockland, characterized by an open canopy of pine trees with an understory of grasses, once covered much of the area between Biscayne Bay and the Everglades. Now fragmented and rare, less than two percent remains of this ecosystem, scattered across parts of south Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba. These remnant fragments provide critical habitat for six federally listed plants and over 100 other plant and animal species listed as threatened and endangered. In all, over 168 species have been documented in this habitat, including neo-tropical migrating birds using the Atlantic Flyway and 30 native species that can only survive in pine rockland.
Founded in 1947, Tropical Audubon Society has been using the pine rockland on its property as a teaching tool for the community for years, but has wanted to expand its outreach. The group used its Innovation Grant to move beyond their existing network of 4,000 members to reach out to the Goulds neighborhood in South Miami, a community mostly comprised of African American and Hispanic residents. They worked with partners, including Boy and Girl Scout Troops and local ministries, to engage new members of the community in pine rocklands conservation.
Tropical Audubon Society also used the funds to create an outdoor education center with interpretative signage, trails, and a computer kiosk system explaining the benefits of native plants in terms of habitat and water savings, as well as the dangers posed by invasive plants to Florida’s ecosystems. A new nursery area provides trees to Adopt a Tree and TREEmendous so that each group can give native plants free of charge to cities, schools, and neighborhoods, which in turn increases urban tree canopy, connect wildlife corridors, and reduce carbon footprints.
This project has not only provided new communities within South Miami and Goulds with hands-on restoration experience, it has also helped protect quality habitat for all the species found in pinelands. A win for both the community and native wildlife!