Archbold Biological Station, Biennial Report 1997-1998

Hilary Swain leads a Staff field trip to Archbold’s newly-acquired Calamintha Scrub tract, 3 April 1998; photo by Nancy Deyrup.

Ashe’s calamint (Calamintha ashei) is a shrubby mint occurring on Florida’s central and Atlantic coast ridges. Its pink or lavender flowers appear in spring, and it occurs in both scrub and sandhill. Ashe’s calamint is abundant on Archbold’s newly-acquired Calamintha Tract. It is listed as Threatened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; photo by Reed Bowman.


Executive Director: Hilary M. Swain       [Biennial Contents]


Since the 1980s, the state of Florida, the federal government, county governments, and private entities have invested more than $75 million to purchase the last few ancient upland scrubs and sandhills that remain along the Lake Wales Ridge (LWR). To date, approximately 130,000 acres are in conservation ownership, creating a network of 40 biological preserves managed by 12 different entities. Purchasing and managing land to save this ecosystem continues to be the state of Florida’s highest priority. Among the critical remaining areas of scrub acquired during 1997–98, the most important was a large portion (1,651 acres) of the Carter Creek site. This acquisition included 934 acres purchased by the State of Florida (to be managed by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission), 629 by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and 88 by The Nature Conservancy, thus expanding the country’s first National Wildlife Refuge for endangered plants. Archbold Biological Station has also played a direct role in adding protected acres of scrub—in 1998 a further 60 acres of scrubby flatwoods and rosemary bald were added to the extreme southwest corner of the Station (the Station’s main property now totals 5,140 acres). The purchase was achieved using; mitigation funds from a regional pipeline development, a donation from Archbold friend Mrs Agnes Andreae through The Nature Conservancy, and from many private donations to Archbold’s Scrub Acquisition Fund. The site was named the Calamintha Scrub (see photo, this page) , in recognition of the large numbers of Calamintha ashei (see photo, this page) it supports, at a small dedication ceremony on 3 April 1998. The scrub habitats to the northwest of Archbold Biological Station still remain unprotected, although the scrub habitat chopping incident at this site in 1996 (reported in the 1995–96 Biennial) was successfully prosecuted in 1997.

     Even though much remains to complete proposed conservation acquisitions for the LWR, Archbold now finds itself also contributing to new initiatives concerning management and community participation at the recently established LWR sites. We have been instrumental in helping coordinate land management and habitat mapping initiatives for the other sites along the Ridge, with a vision of an integrated repository of cross-site data concerning scrub habitat and fire management histories. We recognize that for lasting conservation on the Ridge, the scrub and sandhills must find a place in the hearts and minds of local townships and communities. Archbold has worked with other members of the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group, a unique consortium encompassing many local, state, and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and interested citizens, to develop a Communications Plan to reach these communities. The plan identifies target audiences including decision-makers, realtors/developers, landowners, tourism industry, residents and voters, activist/conservation organizations, schools and informal educators. A first step towards implementing this plan has been the publication of "Florida’s Ancient Islands," a 16-page booklet celebrating the values of the scrub ecosystem, that was prepared by The Nature Conservancy with technical contributions from the Station. As a second step towards implementing the Communications Plan, we were delighted to receive an award from the Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, through The Nature Conservancy, to expand Archbold’s Web site with information about how to get involved in protecting this fascinating ecosystem.

     In the midst of acquisition, management, and education challenges, none of us at Archbold forget that the very survival of scrub ecosystems, which have so informed, inspired, and challenged us as scientists, will continue to depend on us conveying our feeling of wonder and scientific adventure to others. Scrub is not an ecosystem easily appreciated by those that disdain science; without scientific understanding the ability to grasp and fathom its wonder and beauty is greatly diminished. John Jerome wrote in his 1994 essay on the Last Great Places—entitled Scrub Beautiful Scrub—"here is all this biology, working all these complex schemes to accommodate the geographical harshness that soil, climate, altitude and aspect have dealt it …What’s so beautiful about scrub, you eventually come to realize, is that it works; that it simply is." Understanding this type of beauty, observed the late Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, is "that to which the human mind responds at its deepest and most profound."

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