The Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) has an 8.5-acre fragment of Pine Rockland, one of the most imperiled habitats on earth. Only about 4 percent of Pine Rockland habitat remains in Florida. Periodic fires, which used to occur naturally in Pine Rocklands, are required to maintain this habitat. However, because much of the remaining Pine Rockland is in small fragments near urban areas, controlled fires are necessary to maintain this habitat. In addition, invasive plant species encroaching on the habitat must be removed to prevent them from overtaking the natural plant species. For the past 15 years, Dr. Bruce Schaffer, a Professor of Plant Physiology at TREC, coordinated efforts to have invasive plant species removed and arranged for controlled fires in TREC’s Pine Rockland.
Recently, Dr. Ben Baiser, an Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology at UF in Gainesville and his graduate student, Lauren Trotta, have started a project to assess the impacts of controlled fire on species composition and diversity in Pine Rocklands, with TREC as one of their study sites. At the same time, Dr. Zack Brym, an Assistant Professor of Agroecology at TREC, will be studying species composition in TREC agricultural areas. The attached video shows a controlled burn in the TREC Pine Rockland, supervised by the Nature Conservancy, as part of these research efforts.