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Wekiva Basin Ecology Field Course # 2: Fire Ecology

On October 15, the Friends of the Wekiva River hosted the second in a series of ecology field courses in the Wekiva Basin. The 25 participants in the six-part series convened at Wekiwa Springs State Park (WSSP) to discuss historical and current fire management in the longleaf pine/wire grass ecosystems that predominate the uplands within the park.

The course instructors included Jay Exum, who is leading the series, along with Paul Lammardo Park biologist at WSSP, Zach Prusak with The Nature Conservancy and Randy Mejeur with AECOM. Paul, Zach and Randy all provided expertise on the implementation and consequences of fire in longleaf pine ecosystems. WSSP provided a tram to traverse the field roads along our 6-mile study area.

Fall flowers were profuse, the temperature was pleasant, and the group was engaged as we explored historical trends in fire management and the exemplary application of fire over the last 30 years at WSSP.

The longleaf pine and wire grass ecosystem at WSSP has been restored over several thousands of acres managed by park biologists, and the vegetative diversity and wildlife typical to these habitats reflect the focus on restoring frequent fires to the sandhills. A group photo was taken in a dense, lush growth of a beautiful fall-flowering plant called summer’s farewell. Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies and honey bees were just as profuse as the flowers underneath the mature longleaf pine canopy.

Part three of the field course will take place on December 16 during the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the Wekiva Basin.