Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Ecosystems: Scrub & High Pine
Florida scrub ecosystemScrub and High Pine are part of the Upland Ecosystem. Prior to the advent of air conditioning, Florida was an unbearable place for people to live. The things that sustained Florida before tourism were turpentine harvesting, logging and other industries that depended on these upland ecosystems.

Generally, scrubs are communities that are mostly pinewoods with a thick understory of oaks and saw palmetto. Scrubs are found in well-drained, nutrient-poor, sandy soils. Plants that grow here have adapted to dry conditions. Fires play an important role in scrub ecosystems; in the absence of fires, a hardwood forest of oak will develop. High pine is closely related to pine flatwoods.

SUBSTRATE: 
Droughty, sandy, low-fertility soils.

TOPOGRAPHY:
 Hilly uplands.

VEGETATION:
 Scrubshrubby evergreen oaks and/or Florida rosemary; may have a sand pine or slash pine overstory; contains 13 federally listed endangered or threatened plant species. High pinelongleaf pine interspersed with deciduous oaks, especially turkey oak, with an herbaceous layer usually dominated by wiregrass.

FAUNA:
 Scrubseveral thousand species of arthropods; threatened Florida scrub jay, Florida scrub lizard, threatened sand and blue-tailed mole skinks, gopher tortoise, threatened Florida black bear, white-tailed deer, bobcat, gray fox, spotted skunk, raccoon.  High-pinemany broadly distributed vertebrates; endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, bobwhite quail, Sherman's fox squirrel, gopher tortoise.

PROCESSES / DYNAMICS / ABIOTIC FACTORS: 
Scrubdependent on infrequent, high-intensity fires.  High pine—dependent on frequent, low-intensity fires.

NEGATIVE IMPACTS:
  Scrubecosystem rare, even prior to European settlement; after earlier losses to agriculture, now threatened primarily by real estate development.  High pine6.5 million board feet of virgin longleaf pine removed in Florida in late 1800s and early 1900s; does not regenerate well; very few good examples of old growth longleaf pine remain.


high Pines in central FloridaThe long leaf pine is an important species to the logging industry. Widely distributed in the sandhills and clayhills regions of the panhandle and central Florida, much of the land is privately owned and logged for use as a source for pulp.

Florida Scrub is one of the most interesting and one of the most endangered natural plant communities in the United States. Florida Scrub is a unique plant community that occurs in small patches scattered across the state. It is home to dozens of plant and animal species that occur nowhere else in the world.

Scrub is a plant community characterized by the dominance of shrubs, in contrast to forests which are dominated by trees, and savannas and prairies which are dominated by grasses.

The Florida scrub environment is harsh. Without a canopy of trees, summer temperatures are hotter than in other plant communities. Rain water rushes through the deep, sterile sands as fast as it falls. Fires sweep through the bushes burning the scrub to the ground at unpredictable intervals. The loose sands are shifted about by wind, abrading and sometimes burying small plants. Only the toughest plants and animals can survive!

Under natural conditions, savannas and prairies burn every 1-5 years, and forests only once in a century or even less often. Scrub is maintained by fires that burn the plants to the ground at intermediate intervals of 30-75 years or so. The scrub-adapted plants then re-sprout from their roots or germinate from seeds that were already "banked" in the sand.

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