The Florida Keys consist of small islands of
limestone rock formed from ancient coral reefs rising a few meters
above the sea. The tropical climate and the Gulf Stream have
brought both tropical West Indian and temperate North American
plants and animals to these islands. So far, plant surveys
conducted on the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area
properties have identified 76 rare plant species, 58 of which are
listed as threatened or endangered. Many of the rare species are
also designated as imperiled or critically imperiled, regionally,
nationally, or globally.
Lower Keys Freshwater WetlandsThe major natural
communities on the area are tropical hammocks, mangrove swamp, and
coastal salt marsh. In the Florida Keys freshwater resources are
found only in the lower keys where small ponds and marshes are
scattered amidst the hammocks where depressions in the underlying
rock occur. Although these freshwater resources do not account for
a large portion of the habitat, they are critical to wildlife.
The primary management goal for the Florida
Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area is to restore and protect the
habitats of rare and endangered species. Eradication of invasive
non-native plants, including lead tree, Australian pine, and
Brazilian pepper, is an on-going project on the area.
The Commission contracted with Audubon of Florida's Tavernier
Science Center to inventory and study the habitat use of
neotropical migrant songbirds in the Florida Keys Wildlife and
Environmental Area. The study was completed in 2004.
Birds caught in mist net
The Florida Keys are situated along a major
migration route for neotropical migrant songbirds and may provide
critical stopover habitat during both spring and fall migrations.
Migrant songbirds may rely extensively on tropical hardwood hammock
habitats in the Keys to refuel after over-water flights in spring
and to prepare for southbound flights in the fall. The Florida Keys
Wildlife and Environmental Area provides stopover habitat for many
neotropical migrants. Given the historic and continued loss of
tropical hardwood hammocks throughout the Keys, local information
is needed on the relative abundance, species composition, and
habitat relationships of neotropical migrant songbirds.
This study provides the first systematic quantification of
neotropical songbird migration in the Florida Keys and patterns of
food availability and habitat use. This information will help to
guide habitat management and bird monitoring protocols for the
Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area.