Archive: PRWG 2020 Webinars

In 2020, land managers, researchers and conservation practitioners provided updates on the progress their agency had made in 20+ years of working in pine rocklands.

Most of these recordings are available for viewing; look for the link beneath each abstract.

Dr. Suzanne Koptur - Florida International University (KEYNOTE ADDRESS)

Suzanne is a Professor of Biological Sciences and Co-Director of QBIC (Quantifying Biology In the Classroom) at FIU

The Beauty and Complexity of Pine Rocklands. A fire can leave a pine rockland black and smoking, with nothing alive in the seared landscape. This can be a very depressing sight to the uninitiated, as I was in my first year in the Everglades. But within a month a little green can be seen: some small palmetto fronds starting to open, a rubber vine climbing up a dead black stem; another month and some small fire-following flowering plants pop up; then within a few months the place is green and vibrant with colorful flowers, a pollinator paradise! Plant/animal interactions are numerous and diverse as is fitting for this habitat with an enormous number of understory plant species, each with its own life history, chemistry, and ways of reproducing. I will review some of the many wonders of plants and animals of the pine rocklands, and hope to raise awareness of the multitude of intricate interdependencies that conservation of these imperiled habitats will maintain.

Link to recording: Click here
Click here for a PDF of the presentation

Jennifer Possley - Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Jennifer is the Conservation Program Manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, FL

35 years of safeguarding South Florida’s pine rockland species from extinction. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden opened to the public in 1938, with the goal of displaying tropical plants from around the globe for South Florida citizens to enjoy. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that Garden staff began to officially take a closer look at the biodiversity in its own backyard. In those early years, conservation efforts were focused on a handful of the region’s rarest plant species. Today, we continue to focus primarily on species-level conservation, though our scope has expanded considerably. A strong partnership with Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands and Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces has been critical to the program’s success. Together, we have regularly monitored dynamic population trends in the County’s rarest plants for decades, researched the storage capabilities of rare plants seeds, and conducted more than two dozen pine rockland plant introductions with ten listed species. Though Fairchild’s Conservation Team is first and foremost a group of plant experts, we also administer an outreach program called the Connect to Protect Network. Founded in 2007, the Network encourages Miami and Monroe County residents to plant pine rockland species in their yards, to serve as stepping-stones for pollinators and seed dispersers moving between the area’s urban pine rockland fragments. We now have more than 980 gardens in the Network, which spans the historical extent of South Florida pine rocklands. The Miami metropolitan area is one of the most challenging places on Earth for plant conservation, but we are fortunate to have so many people working together to protect and restore pine rocklands.

Link to recording: Click here

Christopher Russell - The Bahamas Ministry of Environment & Housing

Christopher Russell is the Director of Forestry with the Forestry Unit of The Bahamas Ministry of Environment and Housing

Rapid Post Hurricane Dorian Forest Impact Assessments on Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands - Dorian is recorded to be the strongest hurricane to hit the Bahamas in recorded memory and history. The Forestry Unit in the Ministry of the Environment and Housing conducted two rapid post Hurricane Dorian assessments on Abaco and Grand Bahama in September 2020. The goal of the rapid impact assessments was to determine and estimate the extent of the damage to the forest resources on these islands. These assessments examined landscape level impacts and classified them according to level of damage across multiple forest types. Each forest area classified under protection as part of the Bahamas National Forest Estate (NFE) was visited, georeferenced and observations and photographs taken to verify damage intensity level. The damage level intensity scale used was sourced from the Georgia Forestry Commission. Based on this scale, it was concluded that forest resources on Abaco and Grand Bahama sustained severe to catastrophic damage due to Hurricane Dorian.

Click here for a PDF of the presentation

Janet Gil - Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands

Janet is the Director of Miami-Dade County's Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.

Back to the future: Where we were and where we are now - Over 30 years ago, the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program was born out of the concern for the continuing loss of pinelands and other environmentally sensitive areas. In an effort to address these concerns, the EEL Program was established to acquire, preserve, enhance, restore, conserve, and maintain environmentally endangered lands for the benefit of present and future generations. Today, the EEL program is responsible for managing over 82 nature preserves comprising over 26,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land, including 1,632 acres of Pine Rocklands. In addition, there are 336 acres of Pine Rocklands still on the EEL Acquisition List and the EEL Program continues to add more acreage of these sensitive areas. How do we continue to protect this fragile and precious habitat in the face of dwindling funds, management of fire dependent communities in sea-level rise, management of fire dependent communities in hyper fragmented urbans landscapes, continued extinction of species, and the ever-present development pressures? Tune in and all will be revealed, well probably not all but at least we can begin to work on it together!

Link to recording: Click here

B. Naqqi Manco & Junel Blaise - Turks and Caicos Islands, Dr. Martin Hamilton & Dr. Michele Sanchez, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Naqqi will deliver this presentation; he is a Terrestrial Ecologist in the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources with the Turks & Caicos Islands Government

Balancing the Scale: Fifteen Years of Pine Rockland Conservation in Turks and Caicos Islands. In 2005 the invasive pine tortoise scale Toumeyella parvicornis was identified on pine yard (local name for pine rockland) foundation species Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis in Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. A series of hurricanes with sea surge intrusion and catastrophic dry-season wildfires further impacted the ecosystem. Within ten years, the population decreased by over 97% and the ecosystem was not recovering. With partnership assistance from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s United Kingdom Overseas Territories Programme; the United States Forest Service; The Nature Conservancy; Bahamas National Trust; Bahamas Forestry Unit; US Department of Defence; University of the South, Sewanee; local partners Department of Environment and Coastal Resources and Turks and Caicos National Trust were able to build capacity to manage many components of a species survival programme locally. Further ecosystem management techniques were developed with partners including ex-situ seed storage, nursery growth of pines, genetic analysis, ectomycorrhizal fungi studies, biodiversity profiles for pine yard ecosystems, plant pest identification, tree stress levels, volatile chemical production, a controlled burning programme, and habitat restoration. While much of the pine yard habitat has been lost, habitat recovery in managed areas and restored areas is observable and work continues despite challenges in securing long-term funding.

Link to recording: Click here
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Scott Johnson - Bahamas National Trust

The Bahamas National Trust team includes Science Officers Scott Johnson and Bradley Watson and Chief Park Warden David Knowles

National Park Management in The Bahamas: A Look At Conservation Work Done By The Bahamas National Trust In Bahamas With Special Focus On The Bahamian Pinelands - Since 1959, The Bahamas National Trust has been at the forefront of Bahamian wildlife conservation. However, in the last 20 plus (+) years, the BNT has taken even greater conservation strides, with the expansion of the National park system to 32, including the protection of extensive pineland habitats on Abaco, Andros, and Grand Bahama. Our presentation will focus on the work the BNT and its partners have done over the past two decades with special focus on work in the Bahamian pinelands, including an update on post-hurricane Dorian surveys on Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Link to recording: Click Here

Dr. Joe O'Brien - US Forest Service

Joe is the Project Leader at the USFS Athens Prescribed Fire Laboratory in Athens, Georgia

Why fire matters so much for pine rocklands - The story of fire’s role in resource management has had a radical shift over the last century, moving from the anti-fire sermons of the Dixie Crusaders to the pro-fire themes of “Burner Bob,” with Smokey somewhere in the middle. Fire science too has evolved over the same period moving from a focus on fire as a destructive disturbance to thinking of fire as a critical process driving a host of ecological processes from the maintenance of biological diversity to biogeochemistry. Fire remains possibly the greatest management challenge in pine rocklands, with challenges arising from the catastrophic loss of canopy fuels from storms or invasive insects to the bureaucratic and social barriers to burning in urban areas. However, recent mechanistic understanding of fire in both the physical and ecological realms, combined with new modeling tools and a more receptive public provide hope that these important ecosystems will continue to burn and thrive.

Link to recording: Click here

George D. Gann - The Institute for Regional Conservation

George is founder and Chief Conservation Strategist at IRC

Beyond business as usual – transforming our thinking about pine rocklands – Over the last several decades, many of us have watched the slow loss of pine rocklands, from outright destruction, to invasions of nonnative species, the explosion of native hardwoods responding to fire suppression, and the effects of sea level rise and tropical cyclones. We have also witnessed: major land acquisition programs; robust management programs; a growing coalition of managers, practitioners, scientists, and regulators assembling vast amounts of information and experience; and, the growing support of the public, community organizations, advocates, and (some) politicians to protect and restore this globally imperiled ecosystem and all its incredible diversity. Not all is lost! But to save pine rocklands, we have to think outside the box. In this talk, we will explore some ideas about what is needed right now, from Expanding the Footprint, to the Pine Rockland Business Plan, from the restoration of bulldozed sites, to the use of restoration techniques such as direct seeding to restore pine rockland groundcover. Some ideas are old, some new; some are tested, some need to be. But together they represent an amazing opportunity to transform our thinking and save this incredible ecosystem for future generations.

Link to recording: Click here

Michael Gue, Aerin Land, & Maya Tupaj - Everglades National Park

Michael Gue is ENP's Prescribed Fire Specialist, Maya Tupaj is a Fire Ecologist/Planner, and Aerin Land is a Fire Ecologist

Where have we been and where are we going: Fire Management in Everglades National Park. Today, fire management is met with challenges from excessive fuel loading from years of fire suppression, as well as hotter, dryer, and longer fire seasons due to climate change, all at a time when communities continue to expand into fire adapted ecosystems. Everglades Fire and Aviation Management is leading the way with a new programmatic approach to fire management, an approach that will help meet the fire management challenges of the next century. Everglades Prescribed Fire Specialist and Fire Ecologist will share the history of fire management, how it has shaped the landscape, and our challenges and successes moving forward.

Link to recording: Click here

Chris Bergh - The Nature Conservancy

Chris is the Nature Conservancy's South Florida Program Manager; he is based in the Florida Keys

Pine Rockland Protection, Stewardship, and Science at The Nature Conservancy - Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC’s) mission is to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. TNC’s conservation planning efforts first focused the organization on exceptionally biologically diverse pine rocklands in the 1980’s. Land acquisition efforts commenced with the establishment of the Florida Keys office in 1987. Many of the 574 acres purchased and turned over to government owners on Big Pine Key are pine rockland. Purchase of the 20-acre Terrestris Preserve in the middle of Big Pine Key in 1995 ushered in an era of hands-on land stewardship with emphasis on prescribed burning and monitoring of fire effects on the ecosystem and rare plants. Supporting fire management, invasive species control, science, and conservation planning efforts in the Keys led to connections with related efforts on the Florida mainland, in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and active participation in the Pine Rockland Working Group. Recent efforts have focused on understanding the impacts of sea level rise on pine rocklands and their species, advancing fire management capacity in the Bahamas, and contributing to the development of the Pine Rockland Business Plan for Florida.

Click here for a PDF of the presentation

Jennifer Stern - Miami-Dade Natural Areas Management

Jenny is the Natural Areas Manager for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

A Brief History of Natural Areas Management in Miami-Dade County – First formed in 1991, Miami-Dade County’s Natural Areas Management (NAM) Division was created to provide active management of the natural areas under the jurisdiction of the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. Today, NAM works in partnership with the County’s Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Special Taxing Districts, and Department of Environmental Resource Management to provide land management services to over 100 preserves and natural areas. My presentation will focus on how we started, what we’ve accomplished, and what the future may hold.

Link to recording: Click here

US Fish and Wildlife Service South Florida Team

The US Fish and Wildlife South Florida Team includes Endangered Species Supervisor Nikki Colangelo, Botanist David Bender, Ecologist Emily Bauer, Fish and Wildlife Biologist Shawn Christopherson, Coastal Program Biologist Kevin Kalasz

US Fish and Wildlife Service and Pine Rocklands – A Restrospective and Plans for the Future - With origins dating back to 1871, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is the nation’s oldest federal conservation agency and the only federal agency dedicated to managing fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Our mission is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people." The modern USFWS gained our strongest mandate, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in 1973. As the primary administrators of the ESA, the USFWS is charged with species listing and recovery. The first milestone for the USFWS in the protection of pine rocklands and the species they support was the listing of five pine rockland plants as endangered species in 1985. These listings initiated recovery planning, recovery actions, and permitting consultations for these species that continue to the current day. Since those five pine rockland plants were listed, the USFWS South Florida Ecological Services Office (Vero Beach) has been collaborating with and providing technical and financial support for conservation programs to many partners, including the State of Florida, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, Fairchild Botanical Garden, and the Institute for Regional Conservation. More recently, from 2015 to 2018, we listed 13 pine rockland dependent species under the ESA, including 10 plants, two butterflies, and the Miami tiger beetle. Critical habitat has been designated for five of those listed species. We have also listed other species that use pine rocklands as part of their life cycle, including the Florida bonneted bat. With the goal of protecting and conserving the pine rockland ecosystem and the species that depend on it, we have initiated several other efforts in the last two years. For example, we recently funded the Institute for Regional Conservation to conduct vegetation management on 39 acres of forested pine rockland Natural Forest Community at the U.S. Coast Guard Richmond Station. In addition, through funding from the USFWS’ Coastal Program, we are collaborating with pine rockland partners to develop a “Business Plan” for pine rockland conservation. This Business Plan will perfectly complement the comprehensive Pine Rockland Multi-Species Recovery Plan we are developing for 18 federally listed pine rockland species (15 plants, two butterflies, and the Miami tiger beetle). We look forward to continuing collaborations with our partners to conserve and restore pine rocklands in South Florida and recover the species that depend upon it.

Link to recording: Click here

Dr. Mike Ross - Florida International University

Mike is a Professor of Environmental Studies in the Department of Earth & Environment, and Institute of the Environment at FIU

Disturbed in the pine rocklands: a 3-decade research program in the Keys and Florida mainland - When I arrived in South Florida in August 1988 to direct National Audubon Society’s Florida Keys terrestrial ecosystems research program, I was a temperate zone forest scientist with an interest in conducting basic community ecology research that would result in improved resource management. While I was well acquainted with fire management, I was utterly ignorant of the effects that hurricanes or sea-level rise could have on coastal tropical landscapes, or how global climate change would conjoin and exacerbate the impacts of these three disturbances during the next three decades. Pine rocklands provide a case study of the threat that changes in disturbance regimes such as these pose for native biodiversity. My presentation will focus on the long-term decline that such dynamics have produced in lower Keys pinelands, but will also address responses to fire and hurricane in mainland pine rocklands, which due to their settings have not yet been reached by the regionally accelerating rise in sea-level.

Link to recording: Click here

Christina Stocking - Miami-Dade DERM

Christina is a Biologist II with Miami-Dade County's Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources Tree and Forest Resources Section

Miami-Dade County’s Natural Forest Communities and Environmentally Endangered Lands Covenant Programs. A general overview of Miami-Dade County’s programs that utilize regulations and preservation covenants in order to protect & preserve endangered lands on private property.

Link to recording: Click here