Chapter I: The Value of Florida’s State Forests
Working Together in the Wild
A Number of Elements Define Which Life Forms Survive
The tree species that greeted Ponce de Leon upon his discovery of Florida five centuries ago remain much the same today. Florida’s state forests are home not only to the bottomland hardwoods but to longleaf and slash pines, sometimes embedded with cypress and bay, dispersed among sawgrass swamp, scrubs, pinelands and even occasional patches of sandhills.
Such wide-ranging soils support equally varied wildlife: gopher tortoise, sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer, bobcat, and America’s bald eagle. The gopher tortoise, a threatened species, isn’t alone in this unstable state; the red-cockaded woodpecker, scrub jay, and indigo snake also share its unfortunate distinction.
In an ecosystem, many life systems are interdependent. The frequency of fires in a region, changes in elevation, the level of salt in regional water, and the soil type there determine what type of ecosystem remains. Florida’s unique combination of habitats forms an interrelated society of plant and animal species. The dangers facing all the life forms under the trees’ canopy pose a serious challenge to all who value the forests’ natural beauty.