Evaluation - Demonstration Sites

Prairie Pines

Prairie Pines is located in North Fort Myers and the vast size of this property (2,400 acres) makes it a highly viable core ecosystem, as it exceeds the size of many existing preserve areas within the county. The demonstration site consists of 64 acres of melaleuca dominated hydric-mesic pine flatwoods, with scattered mature pines interspersed with freshwater wetlands. Consistent with most lands in this region, the soil is primarily sand with a small proportion of organic matter.

Table 1 contains additional information on soil qualities and chemistry. These soils are flooded on a seasonal basis, with standing water commonly found from June to November. The depth of the standing water varies from north to south, with the latter experiencing greater water depths on average. A small wetland, which rarely dries completely, is located in the south-central section of the demonstration site. Melaleuca has aggressively invaded the areas around the wetland with scattered trees occurring on the wetland's interior.

Tree density and size vary greatly from north to south (along the hydrological gradient), with smaller trees growing in higher densities in the northern portions of the demonstration site. When averaging across the entire site, melaleuca occurs at a density of approximately 4,379 trees per acre. Current tree sizes, when measured at breast height (dbh = 1.3 m), range from 0.5 to 15.3 cm, with an average diameter of 5.2 cm. Table 2 contains the size distribution of these trees.

Although melaleuca dominates the demonstration area, there are 75 other plant species occurring at the demonstration site. Unlike many of the other demonstration sites, the vast majority of these species (at least numerically) are natives and only three are exotics (melaleuca, Schinus terebinthifolius, and Casuarina equisetifolia. Not surprisingly, melaleuca dominates the upper canopy but the lower canopy is a diverse group of native plant species (Table 3). The presence of these natives, and their respective seed banks, suggests that natural re-vegetation might occur after exotics are removed.

Four conventional melaleuca control approaches are featured at the Prairie Pines site:

  • using large machinery
  • felling trees and treating the stumps
  • hack and squirt
  • aerial applications of herbicides

Biological control is also exhibited, along with its integration with each of the other conventional control approaches. In addition, a smaller demonstration is available on the effectiveness of "off the shelf" herbicides that homeowners can purchase from local hardware and garden stores. You can find a detailed description of these approaches on the Prairie Pines Demonstration Site page. We monitor the efficacy of these control approaches by delineating multiple study plots in each treatment and measuring over time the melaleuca mortality, recruitment, and changes in plant species composition. With these measures of efficacy, coupled with the cost of each treatment, we compare the different approaches as to their suitability for large land owners and vegetation control specialists.

Many wildlife sightings were made during the field review of this site which included a variety of wide-ranging and migratory birds, three Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Species of Special Concern, and the federally endangered wood stork. in addition, federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers have been sighted in the vicinity. This property supports black bear (sighted on 11/27/2000), deer, bobcats, and other species associated with these habitat types.