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Upland Habitats

Pine Flatwoods

This is the dominant upland habitat in Florida. Nearly half of the land area is pine flatwoods - generally flat, low lying land with poorly drained soil. In fact, the term "flatwoods" arose from the noticeable lack of topographic relief in the lands of this habitat. Extensive areas of pine flatwoods are found in the panhandle, northeast, central, and south Florida. The habitat often forms a matrix with other upland and wetland habitats.

Two species of pine trees dominate the modern pine flatwoods. Long-leaf and slash pine are commonly found in the panhandle and north and central Florida while slash pine is the only species that exists in south Florida pine flatwoods. An open canopy allows abundant amounts of sunshine to reach the forest floor. This supports an extensive low growing understory. Dominate species include gallberry, saw palmetto, wiregrass, wax myrtle, fetterbush, and several other grass species.

One of the most important elements of the pine flatwoods is fire. Before the extensive development of the state, natural fires started by lightning strikes kept the overstory relatively open, the understory in check and the invasion of hardwoods to a minimum. As a natural part of this habitat, fire helps to recycle nutrients and creates favorable growth conditions for the fire resistant seeds of the flatwood's native grasses and understory plants. Once development began to spread, fire was suppressed, excess fuel accumulated on the ground leading to an increased risk of devastating wild fires, and the species composition of some pine flatwoods changed.


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