Saturday was an absolutely wonderful day spent with old friends and new. Members of the Caribbean Chapter (all of central to southern Florida and Puerto Rico) of the Society of American Foresters held their annual volunteer service day in the Back Woods @ MOSI. New volunteer Forest Stewards, George and Brian, joined us to learn some chainsaw skills and help in the cleanup.
Priority of the day was to tackle the hardwoods (mostly sand live oak [Quercus geminata] and some black cherry [Prunus serotina] that are encroaching on the sandhill plant community. Commonly the canopy of trees in a sandhill community in our area might be dominated with longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) with a mix of a little turkey oak (Quercus laevis) , bluejack oak (Quercus incana), sand live oak, and others depending on the amount of disturbance (fire) the system is exposed to. Typically these systems are very open and subject to frequent low intensity fires that keep all but the fire resistant longleaf pine from dominating the canopy.
Needless to say their were some hardwoods shaking in their roots on Saturday. To the task; professional foresters (Sam), land managers (Stu), forestry consultants (Eric), and forestry students (Walter) broke out their chainsaws and starting clearing. Many thanks to SAF member Sam for sharing chainsaw skills with our volunteer Brian (we might even make him a forester). Some serious progress was made in the western sandhill. Unwanted hardwoods were cleared in the center and around the perimeter. This section is one of the few open areas in the forest still able to support herbaceous sandhill species and gopher tortoise.
In addition to clearing trees, we cleared a serious amount of garbage from the sandhill. Volunteer George meticulously collected bags and bags of broken glass, mattress coils, and miscellaneous construction debris buried in the sandhill and more revealed by the clearing activities. There is still a disturbing amount of buried material throughout the forest but with our volunteers concerted efforts, the task is most definitely surmountable!
SAF members Mindy and Erin took on the task of recording GPS coordinates and conditions of the over 100 trees planted in January for MOSI’s Florida Arbor Day Celebration. Fortunately both Mindy and Erin participated in the January plantings and were familiar with the scattered locations of all the trees. Following the field collection, Mindy is collating all the data and producing GIS documents to analyze the data spatially(Thanks Mindy!). With this data, we hope to track the success of the planting and the future growth of the trees.
We closed out the day hot and dusty. I thanked my friends for all their help and wished them well on their way home (some traveled over a hundred miles to join us for the day). I captured one last photo in the woods as everyone left. A honey bee on poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) blossoms signaling to me Spring is on the way and all is well with the woods.