Archive: 2022 PRWG webinars

Abstracts are listed below in chronological order, as they appeared in the program.
Each day (1-4) is available for viewing on Miami-Dade's zoom platform. Scroll down for links.

Day 1: Monday October 31st

Dr. Frank with FP161

Holistic Conservation of the Pine Rocklands
Frank Ridgley DVM, Zoo Miami,

In a relatively short amount of time, we have drastically altered the pine rockland ecosystem and their complex webs of species interactions. For many decades we have collectively been studying the rare flora that occupy the remaining fragments but the fauna remains relatively understudied. We all know individual species’ ecology do not exist in a vacuum. Appreciating, evaluating, and measuring what has been lost from the lands that we manage can aid us in being better land managers, biologists, researchers, and conservationists. With this knowledge, we may find ways to reintroduce these absent faunal influences to improve the overall health of the remaining pine rocklands.

Turks and Caicos Islands Tropical Important Plant Areas and Important Plant Species Project
B Naqqi Manco¹, Junel Blaise¹, Dodly Prosper¹, Dr Colin Clubbe², Sara Barrios², Marcella Corcoran², Dr Juan Viruel², Amy Barker², Stuart Cable², Tim Wilkinson², ¹Department of Environment and Coastal Resources, Turks & Caicos Islands Government, ²Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,,

Through the United Kingdom Government’s Darwin Plus grant programme for the UK Overseas Territories, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Environment and Coastal Resources are partnering on the Darwin Plus 114 project Tropical Important Plant Areas and Important Plant Species in Turks and Caicos Islands. The project was originally awarded in 2019 but due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, it was delayed until 2022, and will run until 2025. The project has three main aims: Firstly, to identify environments that qualify as Tropical Important Plant Areas under the criteria set by Plantlife International, IUCN, and RBG Kew; Secondly, to better understand the genetics and taxonomy of unique populations of Encyclia and Agave species in Turks and Caicos Islands; And thirdly, to complete IUCN Red Listing of endemic and near-endemic plants centered in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The projects will prioritise areas with endemic plant populations and regionally and globally threatened ecosystems, including the pine rocklands of the Caicos Islands.

Bahama parrots at their nesting cavities

Effects of Number and Density of Limestone Cavities on the Nesting Behavior of the Bahama Parrots (Amzona leucocephala bahamensis) on Abaco Island
By Dr. Caroline Stahala, Shorebird Program Manager, Audubon Florida,

Abaco Parrots nest exclusively in limestone solution cavities on Great Abaco Island, The Bahamas. Limestone solution holes are ubiquitous on the island and come in various shapes, sizes, and depths. This population provides an opportunity to investigate nest site selection relatively free of the resource limitations usually affecting cavity nesting birds. Systematic transects were conducted throughout the parrot nesting area of South Abaco to document suitable nesting cavities. These cavities were overlaid with known nest cavities used by parrots. The total number and density of suitable nesting cavities was not found to be a limiting factor to nesting by Abaco Parrots. Results also show a selective behavior by parrots for nesting in aggregations rather than distribution with respect to cavity availability. Parrots also showed a preference for cavities with vegetation farther from cavity entrance, underscoring the importance of vegetation management in the parrot nesting area.

Birds in the Branches: The Importance of Assessing Nesting Activity Before Invasive Exotic Removal Work
Brian Diaz, Biologist, Miami-Dade County DERM,

Birds don’t only nest in native trees. Branches of Australian pines, Brazilian peppers, and melaleuca are fair game, providing enough structure and cover for some species to nest in them. Rather than make a case for protecting invasive trees, this presentation will discuss the importance of assessing nesting activity before exotic removal work is done, citing the legal protections that nesting birds have. Finally, it will propose strategies for conducting exotic removal work that minimizes the potential for nest disturbance or destruction. These strategies can be employed by public land managers and private property owners.

A prairie warbler in Long Pine Key

Pine Rockland Birds: Lifting the veil on what we lost
Noah Frade, Project Botanist, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

The birds which inhabit and once inhabited the pine rockland habitat of South Florida remain an understudied and underappreciated aspect of the region's biodiversity. Current breeding bird diversity in pine rockland fragments beyond Everglades National Park is extremely low; however, this was not always the case. Instead of exotic parrots, pigeons, and starlings, this ecoregion once hosted a unique combination of native bird species typical of pine savannahs across the southeastern U.S., as well as Caribbean species which reach the northern limit of their breeding range at the tip of the Florida peninsula. Using current data from intact habitat within Long Pine Key in Everglades National Park, Big Pine Key, and the Bahamas, we can attempt to paint a picture of the bird life that existed across much of metropolitan Miami over 100 years ago. This discussion will explore current and historical pine rockland bird assemblages in addition to sharing a new field guide created in collaboration with a local student and bird enthusiast.

Pine rockland understory regrowing one month after a prescribed fire at UF Tropical Research and Education Center

Trends in plant community dynamics in urban pine rockland fragments
Lauren Trotta, Zachary Siders, and Ben Baiser, University of Florida; Jennifer Possley, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden; and Steven Woodmansee, Pro Native Consulting,

An essential component to the success of ecological habitat management is periodic monitoring to determine whether management goals are being met. In 2018, we resampled vegetation plots across 16 of Miami’s urban pine rockland fragments for the fourth time since the plots were established in 1994. This long-term monitoring program captures changes in the highest quality pine rockland plant communities within these urban fragments, most of which have been actively managed for pine rockland habitat. Using these data, we explored trends in species richness and percent cover in pine rockland ground cover, midstory, and canopy plots over time. We also divided species recorded in plots into groups of management interest (i.e., native, rare, threatened, or endangered, non-native, and invasive species), and growth forms (i.e., tree, shrub, palm, graminoid, vine, and forb). With these species groups we can begin to evaluate habitat management goals such as promoting native species, reducing non-native and invasive species, and maintaining open pine rocklands vegetation structure. Finally, we dig into the data to reveal which species have contributed most strongly to each trend in Miami’s urban pine rocklands.

By assessing these best available long-term pine rockland plant community data, we find that species richness has increased across all levels of habitat structure: at the ground level, in the midstory, and in the canopy. Further, we show that management priorities like invasive species removal, hardwood species reduction, and the protection of rare, threatened, and endangered species have been successful. We also find signals that while diversity of native species has been increasing, the vegetation structure in these pine rockland plots has been shifting to encompass greater canopy cover, increased palm and tree cover in the midstory, and reduced graminoid richness and cover and herb cover at the ground level.

Day 2: Tuesday, November 1st

Pine Rockland Business Plan Update
Kevin Kalasz, US Fish & Wildlife Service; Kathy Freeman, Sarah Martin and Chris Bergh, The Nature Conservancy; George Gann, The Institute for Regional Conservation; Janet Gil, Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands; Jennifer Possley; Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

A multi-agency team led by USFWS will provide an update on the progress that has been with the Pine Rockland Business Plan. Together, experts have gathered information on all known pine rockland parcels, the species within, and their restoration needs. Learn how this important conservation tool will be used to promote and improve the effectiveness of our combined efforts in the restoration of South Florida's pine rocklands.

Safeguarding Lepidopteran inventories and listed species records for Miami-Dade County preserves
Lydia Cuni,Field Biologist, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden,

The insect diversity in Miami-Dade County is a stirring blend of American and West Indian species, many of which are understudied and poorly-documented. As part of its biological monitoring program with Miami-Dade County, Fairchild field biologists have compiled iNaturalist records, as well as survey results and casual observations, to create a lepidopteran inventory list and database for all County preserves. With this work we also found that there was a great need to develop another database to record sightings of rare and listed lepidoptera species such as Bartram’s hairstreak, Florida duskywing, and lesser wasp moth. To date we have compiled inventories for at least 27 PROS (Parks, Recreation and Open Space) areas and 37 EEL (Environmentally Endangered Lands) areas and have safeguarded 28 observations of Bartram’s scrub-hairstreaks from 5 preserves. This lightning talk will highlight some of the more interesting species and sightings, and inform audience members about how they could help to provide additional data.

Pine rockland Senna host sulphur butterfly caterpillar defenses against ants
Suzanne Koptur, Professor Emerita, Florida International University,

Senna chapmannii plants have extrafloral nectaries that attract beneficial insects that serve to protect the plants against herbivores. These beneficials include predators like ants and wasps, and parasitoid wasps and flies. How then do many caterpillars of the cloudless sulphur and orange-barred sulphur survive to become butterflies in pine rockland habitats? These clever caterpillars have a system for remaining undetected by native carpenter ants, though it doesn’t work very well against red imported fire ants!

Helen doing a butterfly release on campus

WINGS @BIOTECH: A self-sustaining high school Conservation Program & Garden
Helen Tarrau, student at BioTECH @Richmond Heights High School,

The pine rocklands serve as a vital habitat for native South Florida butterfly populations. Many of them are endangered as a result of the 98.2% that has been destroyed outside Everglades National Park. Factors like urbanization and fragmentation have driven biodiversity down. An example would be the loss of the host and nectar plants on which butterflies such as the atala hairstreak and the Florida duskywing depend. In early January of 2021, we proposed the question of whether planting native plants at BioTECH @Richmond Heights High School (located within the Richmond tract in Miami-Dade County, Florida) would positively impact our endemic butterfly species. After constructing a garden consisting of a variety of plants in various locations distributed throughout our campus, data was collected on all butterfly species that consistently utilized our plants. The objective was to have endemic butterfly populations increase alongside our expanding garden collection. We planted American beautyberry, coontie, locustberry, pineland lantana, pineland strongbark, wild lime, wild petunia, wild sage, and more in the hopes of providing a self-sustaining environment where having both host and nectar plants readily available would help reach our goal of increasing their overall survival.

Natural History and Conservation of the Miami Tiger Beetle
Jonathan Mays, Terrestrial Invertebrate Program Lead - Associate Research Scientist, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gainesville, FL,

After going undetected for nearly 85 years and losing greater than 98% of their fire dependent pine-rockland habitat, the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana) was feared extinct. Miraculously, this species was rediscovered within the Richmond Tract of South Miami in 2007, where a population had persisted among a handful of scattered, open patches still being maintained by fire, albeit surrounded by an encroaching urban interface. Listed “federally endangered” in 2016, this rare beetle is poorly understood with respect to its distribution, seasonal abundance, habitat use, and behavior. A cooperative effort between county, state, and federal partners began in 2015 and has worked to inventory other potential sites, monitor known populations, and explore various habitat management options to benefit Miami tiger beetles. This talk will present results from seven years of survey and monitoring, including investigations into habitat characteristics, detectability, and population trends. Continued multi-agency cooperation and sound management decisions are required for both this beetle and its imperiled pine-rockland habitat to persist.

Pine Rockland Trapdoor Spider (Ummidia richmond), male

USCG "Dives in" to Active Management of Pine Rockland Habitat
Megan Clouser and Jessica Hogan, United States Coast Guard,

Implementing a site management plan is not always easy. The USCG-owned property located in southern Miami-Dade County, also called "COMMSTA" or "Richmond Heights," is home to a number of threatened and endangered species and over 100 acres of pine rockland habitat. Through coordination with USFWS, local researchers, and partners, we are making some progress to meet the goals outlined in our draft management plan. More headway is needed on-site and in the surrounding areas to restore and successfully manage the pine rocklands under our stewardship. The USCG is looking to discuss ideas on how to make more forward progress while considering the limited resources available.

Life History of the Faithful Beauty Moth
Tiffany Moore, Butterfly Lab Specialist, Zoo Miami,

The Faithful Beauty moth (Composia fidelissima vagrans) is a charismatic diurnal species that resides in the South Florida pine rockland habitat. Former literature stated that the Devil’s Potato vine (Echites umbellatus) was the sole native host plant. There are now four additional native host plants confirmed. Larvae of the Faithful Beauty moth have exhibited variances in the number of instars while all lab conditions remained the same during the study period. There are other closely related species in the genus Composia and we provide visual samples to delineate the key characteristics for identification.

Two decades of fire and water management shape rare plant communities along an elevational gradient in South Florida
Owen Schneider, Benjamin Baiser, and Raelene Crandall, University of Florida,

Quantifying the response of plant diversity to large-scale restoration is essential for measuring management success. One of the world’s largest restoration efforts began in 2000 in Everglades National Park through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). CERP, in coordination with ongoing fire management, aims to restore natural hydrological and fire regimes in this dynamic ecosystem. Restored water and fire regimes in the Everglades interact along an elevational gradient between seasonally inundated marl prairie and frequently burned pine rockland in Long Pine Key (LPK). LPK is critical for management success because it holds the largest intact segment of the globally critically imperiled pine rockland ecosystem. To determine the effects of management on plant community richness and composition in LPK we resampled transects spanning the elevational gradient between marl prairie and pine rockland originally sampled prior to the implementation of current restoration efforts (c. 1997-1999). We measured percent plant cover and species presence/absence and developed two separate generalized linear mixed models to determine the effects of fire frequency, inundation, and elevation on plant species richness and composition across the two time periods. Additionally, we used species random effects to examine how individual species respond to each environmental variable.

We failed to detect any systematic shifts in plant composition in response to updated fire and water management. However, we found that complex interactions between fire and water structure plant species richness and composition along the elevational gradient. Additionally, species-level random effects showed that species endemic to the system increased while invasive species decreased between the two time periods indicating effective management of these species groups. Overall, we find that the plant communities within LPK are highly resilient to an ecologically relevant range of fire and water management.

Day 3: Wednesday, November 2nd

The Pine Rockland and Florida bonneted bats: a study case in an anthropogenic landscape
Melquisedec Gamba-Rios1, Stephanie Brinez1 and Frank Ridgley2, 1Endangered Species Interventions, Bat Conservation International. 2Conservation and Research Department, Zoo Miami,

The Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) is a federally endangered species endemic to southern Florida. In the Southeast of the distribution, one of the main threats for the species is the irreversible loss of the Pine Rockland habitat. These forests provided the Florida bonneted bat's natural roosting habitats and food resources. Human population growth in Florida, leading to the development and land-use change increases, has been decreasing this critical habitat. Roosts play a crucial role in the longevity and stability of bat populations as they provide shelter for them to sleep, give birth, raise their young, and provide protection from predators and extreme weather events. Additionally, foraging habitats are vital to the survival of any bat population. For the past three years, Bat Conservation International and Zoo Miami have been working on an initiative to recover and conserve the Florida bonneted bat in the urban settings in which it is found. During this time, we identify the species' historical and contemporary roost use to better understand roost selection in urban environments. Also, we create an acoustic monitoring grid to identify foraging areas across Miami-Dade County. Our goal is to provide relevant data that supports the protection and enhances the recovery of the Florida bonneted bat in urban environments.

Link to Miami-Dade EEL video (sound all the way up) with Florida bonneted bat call

Are highly disturbed pine rocklands like this able to recover?

Pine rocklands in South Florida continue to be lost to urban development and habitat degradation.
Alex Seasholtz, Ecological Restoration Management Team Leader with The Institute for Regional Conservation,

One of IRC’s missions of the Pine Rockland Initiative is to “ expand the footprint“ and begin to reclaim area once thought lost. Through the employment of restoration mowing and direct seeding we are better understanding the metrics of restoring ecological function to degraded pine rocklands.

Steven and Mr. 6000

Ecology and Conservation of Gopher Tortoises in Miami-Dade's Pine Rockland Preserves
Dr. Steven Whitfield, Conservation Scientist, Zoo Miami,

The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a resident of the southeastern coastal plain of the United States, including components of the pine rocklands ecosystem. Gopher Tortoise populations are declining range-wide, including in south Florida. Gopher Tortoises are both ecosystem engineers and keystone species: the burrows they create are used as refugia by hundreds of other animal species, and tortoises serve as important seed dispersers for pine rockland plants. While historically they were more widespread in Miami-Dade County, today only three small populations of gopher tortoises remain in Miami's pine rocklands, and these populations are at the forefront of impacts from urbanization and climatic warming. Here, I will review research led by Zoo Miami over the past several years focused on population ecology, thermal ecology, spatial ecology, disease ecology, reproductive biology, and ecosystem role as seed dispersers. I will review conservation actions led by Zoo Miami focusing on reducing human-wildlife conflict, rehabilitation of sick and injured gopher tortoises at the Zoo Miami veterinary hospital, and supplementation of depleted populations with tortoises illegally displaced by human in partnership with Miami-Dade County's Environmentally Endangered Lands program. I will review the current understanding of gopher tortoise conservation in the pine rocklands, and discuss conservation and management scenarios for long-lived ecosystem engineers in small natural areas of critically imperiled pine rockland.

Adrian showing tortoise scat with a seedling that germinated from an ingested seed.

Gopher Tortoises are Frugivores? Seasonal Shifts toward Frugivory by Gopherus polyphemus in the Pine Rockland Ecosystem
Adrian Figueroa1, Alyssa Herrera2, Lydia Cuni3, and Dr. Steven Whitfield4. 1Florida International University, Department of Earth and Environment, 2Florida International University, Institute of Environment, 3 Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 4Zoo Miami, Conservation and Research Department and Florida International University, School of Environment, Arts, Society.

Frugivory is an important foraging behavior often leading to seed dispersal for fleshy fruited plants. Thus, most animal-mediated seed dispersal literature has focused on traditional frugivores due to the prevalence of fleshy fruits in their diet. This approach has led to research biases that imply traditional frugivores are primarily important for maintaining this ecological process over other animals that diverge in their foraging behavior. Previous research has unveiled that scats from diverse faunae contain seeds of plants with disparate dispersal syndromes aside from fleshy fruits. Herbivorous gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) – a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act – currently inhabit the expanse of pine rockland habitat at The Richmond Tract in Miami, FL. These tortoises have been previously documented to ingest seeds of various plants at this site but surprisingly lacked seeds of many fleshy fruited species. However, this observation was due to sampling biases focusing on dry season scat collection. These same individual tortoises have now been tracked for over a year with weekly scat collections unveiling their diet and seed consumption across the wet and dry seasons. Through this research, clear patterns have emerged that depict dietary shifts that reflect the fruiting phenology of fleshy fruited pine rockland plant species. In this talk, I will discuss results from scat dissections as part of my dissertation research and share the implications of this frugivorous behavior by gopher tortoises for the conservation of pine rockland plant species.

Understory community mesocosm experiment for testing the effects of native vs urban soil microbiomes.

Fragmentation disrupts microbial effects on native plant community productivity
Kasey N. Kiesewetter, Leydiana Otano, Michelle E. Afkhami, University of Miami, Department of Biology, Coral Gables,

Habitat fragmentation – the breaking up of natural landscapes – is a pervasive threat to biodiversity that introduces novel, non-natural matrix habitat into landscapes worldwide. Despite the importance of the matrix, we have limited knowledge of how it influences microbiomes on remnant habitats and even less on how matrix-driven changes to microbiomes scale up to influence plant community productivity. Using field collections, microbiome sequencing, and manipulative mesocosms in the imperiled Pine Rockland fragments within Miami-Dade County, we (1) investigated how microbial diversity and composition differed between 15 native rocklands fragments and adjacent urban matrix, (2) compared how the strength of fragmentation and matrix features explained variation within these two habitat types, and (3) tested whether urbanization-driven changes in microbiomes affected plant community productivity and composition.

Microbial diversity and composition significantly differed between native habitat and urban matrix, including an ~80% increase in symbiotrophs in native habitats and a >300% pathotroph increase in urban matrix. Further, habitat fragmentation metrics explained variation in microbial diversity of native, pine rockland fragments but not of the adjacent urban matrix habitats. Importantly, native habitat microbiomes increased overall plant community productivity by ~300%, while urban microbiomes did not affect productivity, indicating that native plant communities showed diminished reliance on urban microbiomes. Our study not only documented matrix-driven changes in microbial diversity and composition, but also demonstrated native microbiomes persisting in fragmented landscapes are imperative to plant community productivity, highlighting preservation of native microbiomes as critical for native plants in remnant fragments.

Lostman's Pines, ca. 1994

Windthrow in South Florida pine rocklands: pit-and-mound features and plant microhabitat associations following a hurricane
Michael S. Ross1,2, Susana Stoffella2, John F. Meeder2, Jay P. Sah2, Pablo L. Ruiz3;1Department of Earth & Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL; 2Institute of Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL; 3National Park Service, South Florida Natural Resource Center, Homestead, FL;

Biotic legacies from natural disturbances can create topographic heterogeneity that affects plant composition and diversity across scales from centimeters to kilometers. In this continuing study of the effects of Hurricane Andrew (August 1992), we examined the immediate (3 years post-hurricane) and long-term (28 years post-hurricane) effects of pit-and-mound landforms created by uprooted trees on the pine forest understory in Everglades National Park. We found that trees uprooted from the limestone bedrock created deep pits that partially infilled over time but left a lasting mark on the landscape. Soon after the storm, the plant assemblages in the pits were about twice as species-rich as those on the mounds, and communities in both environments were distinct from control plots that represented background vegetation. By 2020, when the plots were resampled, several significant species-environment associations remained, though the strong initial differences in composition between pit, mound, and control had decreased substantially. Spatial analyses along transects also indicated that while old tipup features were sometimes associated with distinct compositional units, they were not the primary agent responsible for variation in community composition. Together, these results suggest that the uprooting of pine trees during periodic hurricanes creates ecologically significant substrate variation for early plant establishment on the rockland surface, and while succession and subsequent sedimentary processes erase some of this early vegetation patterning, the uprooting of trees contributes in an important way to the diversity of understory rockland assemblages.

Day 4: Thursday, November 3rd

Misidentification and threats of imperilment to the Florida duskywing (Ephyriades brunnea floridensis)
Mary Truglio Fesmire, chair of Imperiled Butterflies of Florida Work Group,

Mary's genetics research with the University of Florida stemmed from a decline in the number of Florida duskywings (Ephyriades brunnea floridensis) found in pine rocklands. The goal of the project was to evaluate the level of population connectivity across a network of remnant critically imperiled pine rockland fragments in south Florida. The Florida duskywing was used as a model organism to: 1) assess current levels of genetic diversity, genetic differentiation, and gene flow in local, spatially discrete populations at both the landscape and regional levels; 2) evaluate the population structure of this butterfly based on the specific spatial characteristics of the existing habitat network sites; and 3) identify priority management or restoration focal areas within the overall network essential for long-term conservation of priority at-risk species with limited dispersal abilities. After collecting and analyzing years of data, she found misidentification to be an unforeseen possible threat to this imperiled butterfly.

Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park -- Clancy Lumber Co. January 22, 1939. Photo courtesy of History Miami Museum

Learning from our environmental past: the hidden history of the timber industry in the Miami pine rocklands
Nisrine Toury1, Diana Ter-Ghazaryan2, Nicholas Ogle3, Elaine Pritzker3, Cesar Becerra4, Malcolm Lauredo5, Cara Rockwell1, 1 Institute of Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL, 2 College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 3 College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL, 4 SloFlo Weird Show, Miami, FL, 5 Memento Miami and the Bureau of Time Tourism,

Some of the most cited examples of logged secondary forests are in the tropics, but logged remnant forests are also prevalent throughout North America. As an example, South Florida claims extensive areas of recuperating forest that were heavily logged in the 20th century, including remnant pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County, of which, only about 2% remains. Our goal was to document this history of timber extraction in the Miami pine rocklands and develop a comprehensive and interactive web application (ArcGIS StoryMap, that will be available to the public free of charge. Additionally, as part of this project, we have designed an in-person lab exercise covering the environmental history of the native pine rockland ecosystem for Miami-Dade County Public School students. This historic framework can be used to educate the public about environmental history and historic resource management practices in South Florida via in-person and online labs. An additional objective is for this information to be used a baseline for restoration efforts. Indeed, this educational and outreach effort has provided us with a unique opportunity to document the natural resource exploitation of this imperiled ecosystem, potentially providing important historical perspectives that can guide future management efforts.

Hybridization between Lantana depressa and Lantana camara in pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County
Miranda Sinnott-Armstrong1, Kayleigh Dodson1, Pat Lu-Irving2, and Stacey Smith1 1 Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, CO, 2 Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience, Australian Institute of Botanical Science, The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia,

Lantana depressa is an endangered species native to pine rockland habitats in south Florida. In addition to the threat of habitat loss, L. depressa is also threatened by hybridization with its close relative L. camara, which is highly invasive in tropical habitats around the world. Hybridization between L. depressa and L. camara appears to be common, and in the field many individuals appear intermediate between L. depressa and L. camara. In this project, we are studying population structure and phylogeographic history of hybridization between L. depressa and L. camara in south Florida. We sampled nearly 100 individuals of co-occurring L. depressa, L. camara, and hybrids in various parks and preserves in Miami-Dade county, and we are combining these samples with another ~100 herbarium collections which include historical collections of likely “pure” L. depressa individuals. With this combined approach, we aim to build on previous work on population structure in Lantana depressa and Lantana camara, in order to improve genetic resolution and to capture historical patterns of hybridization. We will sequence DNA from these collections to 1) identify “pure” L. depressa populations, 2) characterize the degree of hybridization between L. depressa and L. camara in the present day and historically, and 3) confirm previous findings of morphological differences between these species to facilitate conservation efforts aimed at removing invasive Lantana camara.

Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition Activities, Fall 2022
Al Sunshine, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition,

Developers still eye our remaining Pine Rocklands as prime real estate for South Florida’s insatiable demand for more expansion, but they are also a “Globally Imperiled Habitat” that’s home to a variety of rare and federally protected Plants and Animals. The Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition includes a diverse group of organizations aimed at trying to focus limited advocacy on Preserving, Protecting and Restoring our shrinking Pine Rockland Habitats. Our main focus now includes Habitat Protection in the largest local Pine Rocklands outside of Everglades National Park: The Public Lands of the Richmond Pine Rocklands. This talk will discuss the recent history of Miami Pine Rockland Coalition efforts to protect one of these tracts.

The smoke solution device (left), and young Eragrostis elliottii seedlings (right).

Effects of different plant-derived smoke solutions on seed germination of a native pine rockland grass.
Lisa M. Krueger and Lucille D. Kaufman, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, Tennessee,

Pine rocklands are endangered, fire-maintained ecosystems in Florida that are rapidly declining due to fire suppression, development, and invasive species. Sowing native seeds is one method that can be used to restore native species to the understory of degraded pine rocklands. However, seed germination for some species can be low. Various environmental cues can promote seed germination, including smoke chemicals for some fire-adapted species. Previous research showed that pretreating the seeds of the native pine rockland grass Eragrostis elliottii with smoke-water made from burning Pinus taeda needles led to more reliable germination. Our study examined whether altering the type of vegetation burned affected the amount and rate of germination of E. elliottii seeds soaked in the smoke-water produced. We hypothesized that smoke-water made by burning vegetation native to pine rocklands would induce higher and faster germination than nonnative vegetation. Four different smoke-water solutions were made by burning dried vegetation from 4 different species (P. taeda, Pinus elliottii var. elliottii, Platanus occidentalis, and E. elliottii). A germination trial was conducted on E. elliottii seeds that had been soaked for 24 hours in one of the four solutions or nanopure water (control). Total germination, germination speed, and mean germination/plate were monitored. All smoke-water treatments had significantly higher germination than the control treatment. However, there was no difference in the amount or rate of germination between the smoke-waters made from burning different vegetation types. This suggests that burning vegetation native to pine rocklands does not stimulate more germination than nonnative.

Looking north to Tamiami Pineland, 1975

The Early History of Appreciating and Preserving Miami-Dade’s Pine Rocklands
Clifford Shaw, Metro-Dade Urban Forester (retired). Clifford was the Florida Division of Forestry’s Metro-Dade Urban Forester from 1975 to 1977,

I was assigned to Metro Dade as their Urban Forester in 1975 to assist in identifying and preserving some of Dade County’s remaining natural areas, and to help beautify county parks and streets with more native trees. During my first summer, I developed the methodology and conducted the first comprehensive survey of the county’s remaining pine and hammock forested areas. The results of this survey were included in my “The Pine and Hammock Forestlands of Dade County” report completed during October 1975. In addition to finding only 4 percent of the original pine and hammock forest remained outside of Everglades National Park, I recommended five outstanding forested areas for preservation including the Charles Deering Estate and the Tamiami Pineland (now the Nixon Smiley Pineland Preserve). A few months after this report was completed, part of the Tamiami Pineland was threatened with destruction because of its location in a proposed new Industrial Park next to the Tamiami Airport (now known as the Miami Executive Airport). After a “two-year battle” (as characterized by the Miami Herald) among county officials, land owners, environmentalists, and Department of Interior officials, 62 acres of the Tamiami Pineland was purchased by Dade County in late 1978. This not only marked the first time private property was acquired by the county as a pineland preserve, it ushered in a new era where saving threatened pine rocklands was beginning to receive considerable public and political support.