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Conservation status of Archbold Biological Station

Archbold Biological Station’s most important conservation role is ownership and management of its 5,193-acre, globally significant natural preserve and the adjacent 3,648-acre Archbold Reserve together protecting nearly 6,000 acres of Florida scrub. These two sites comprise one of the largest conservation units on the Lake Wales Ridge, and represent one of the most distinctive natural ecosystems in the United States. Archbold Biological Station was listed in 1986 under the National Natural Landmark register of the US Department of Interior, as an outstanding example of our country's natural history, and one of the best examples of biological features in private ownership.

Archbold Biological Station lies in Highlands County, where remaining Florida scrub habitat ranks the county among the top 11 counties in the U.S. critical to the protection of endangered species (Dobson et al. 1997) and the highest ranked county in the southeastern USA for rare endemic plants (Estill and Cruzan 2001). The Station supports a remarkable 19 federally listed threatened and endangered species, and is recognized in the US Fish and Wildlife Service Multi-species Recovery Plan for South Florida as vital for the long-term survival of many of these species. 26 rare endemic Florida scrub species found at Archbold are listed under the NatureServe/Heritage system as G1 (critically imperiled worldwide), G2 (imperiled worldwide), or G3 (vulnerable worldwide). A recent analysis of the conservation status of all endemic scrub species on the Lake Wales Ridge (Turner et al 2006) indicated that Archbold is imperative for conservation of the endangered lichen Cladonia perforata, andrare plants such as the scrub mint Dicerandra frutescens, and the wedge-leaved button-snakeroot Eryngium cuneifolium. The large population of Florida scrub jays on Archbold Biological Station appears to be one of the most stable in the state, and is recognized as an essential part of the crucial Southern Lake Wales Ridge Florida Scrub Jay population.

Despite its international conservation significance, there are continual threats to Archbold Biological Station from encroaching land uses. The Station works assiduously to identify adjoining lands for acquisition and, over the last twenty years, nearly doubling the size of the lands we managed. Major acquisitions during this time include:

  • 1983 acquisition of Lake Annie and surrounding lands
  • 1991 acquisition of the Hicoria tract, several hundred acres in the south east of the Station
  • Nearly 100 acres of land donated as a result of scrub mitigation requirements for other properties
  • 40 acres as the result of a donation by Mrs. Andres Agneu to The Nature Conservancy
  • and the generous gift from Chairman Frances Hufty that enabled the purchase of the immensely significant 3,648 acre Archbold Reserve to the immediate west of the Station.

Acquisition of the Lake Placid Scrub (3,000 acres) and the McJunkin scrub (700 acres) by the state of Florida added nearly 4,000 acres to the area of contiguous protected scrub habitat around Archbold, and buffered us from encroachment to the north and west. Archbold works relentlessly with neighboring landowners, agencies, conservation organizations, and with other partners, to seek funds to allow us to acquire and protect land around the boundaries of the Station, to try to assure compatible land uses on adjacent lands, and to increase connectivity between Archbold and other protected conservation lands in the neighborhood. There is so much left to protect.