Monday, January 25, 2016

Florida's Dune & Maritime Ecosystem

Dunes and Maritime Forests are part of the Coastal Ecosystem of Floridian nature. Florida's coastal ecosystems are one of the greatest assets that Florida has. With more coastline than any other state in the contiguous United States, they are a source of economic, environmental and recreational benefit. People come from all over the world to visit the beautiful Florida beaches. In addition to people sea turtles also come from all over the world to lay their eggs on Florida's Atlantic coast, one of only a handful of places in the world that they come. Landward of the fore-dune is the maritime forest. Technically part of the dune system, this coastal zone habitat has permanent vegetation with tree and understory layers.

Maritime forests dominated by broadleaved evergreen trees and shrubs occur in a discontinuous narrow band along the barrier islands and on the adjacent mainland from North Carolina to Florida. The flora and fauna of maritime forests typically consist of a distinctive subset of the regional biota that is particularly well adapted to survive the elevated salt content, limited availability of fresh water, soil erosion and dune migration, periodic seawater inundation, and wind damage associated with oceanic storms.

The beach and dune habitat includes the unvegetated beach, and the dune zone up to the point where the stable vegetation of the maritime forests begin. Landward of the non-vegetated beach zone, is the foredune area. The species inhabiting this zone vary depending on location. Sea oats are found in this zone throughout the state and there will be several other, low growing species in association with this species.

Generally, the vegetation is sparse closest to the active beach and transitions to an association of grasses and shrubs. The species composition varies depending on location. Along the northeast beach wax myrtle, silverling, southern red cedar, and cabbage palm are dominant. The southeast coast has purple muhly grass, sea grape, saw palmetto, Spanish bayonet, and agave. nickerbean, bay cedar, catsclaw, buckthorn, lantana, joewood, and several species of grasses dominate the southwest coastline while woody goldenrod, rosemary and Gulf Bluestem make up the dune transition zone in the Panhandle.

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