On Earth Day, NFLT prescribed burned over 60 acres of longleaf pine forest encompassing three ephemeral wetlands on Putnam Lakes Preserve. Putnam Lakes Preserve is located within the O2O Wildlife Corridor. This corridor is a 100 mile long, 1.6-million acre, landscape of public and private lands that connect the Ocala and Osceola National Forests. Creating healthy corridors is essential for our migrating and local wildlife like Florida black bears, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the threatened gopher tortoise.
The purpose of the burn was multifold:
- reintroduce prescribed fire to both the uplands and wetlands;
- remove the buildup of leaf litter shading native groundcover thereby stimulating the seed bank of native forbs, grasses and wildflowers;
- and reduce both mid-story hardwoods in the uplands & the shrub layer and fire shadow surrounding the ephemeral wetlands.
NFLT partnered with Alachua Conservation Trust, North Florida Prescribed Burn Association, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in order to successfully implement the burn. We chose to burn this site in late April to maximize the ecological benefits to the longleaf pine ecosystem; hazard fuel-reduction (22 years since last burn) and improve forage and nesting habitat for wildlife. Our burn prescription required choosing a day with abundant soil moisture and utilizing low-intensity ignition techniques to minimize potential impacts to the pine plantation.
Wildlife observed during the burn included a piebald white-tail fawn, a pygmy rattlesnake, a diamondback rattlesnake skin, eastern fence lizards, brown-headed nuthatches, summer tanagers, pileated woodpeckers, swallow-tailed kites, barking and pine woods tree frogs, and eastern cottontail rabbits.
NFLT has plans to burn additional wetlands, treat invasive plant species, and re-plant 10 acres of longleaf pine later this year.
Photos by: Matt Greene, NFLT Land Manager