Natural pinelands (dry flatwoods) includes pine forests, excluding pine rocklands, sandhills, and sand pine scrub, which are listed as separate classes. Natural pineland habitats on dry sites include mesic and scrubby flatwoods. Generally, slash pine-dominated sites occupy intermediate or moderately moist areas. The understory and ground cover within these communities include several common species such as saw palmetto, gallberry, wax myrtle, and a wide variety of grasses and herbs. Cypress domes, bay heads, titi swamps, and freshwater marshes are commonly interspersed in isolated depressions throughout natural pineland habitats.
Fire is an important factor that helps to maintain and shape natural pineland communities; almost all of the plants and animals found here are adapted to having fires occur at least every one to eight years. Much of this community has been altered by humans as a result of conversion to agriculture and pine plantations, alteration of fire regimes, and introduced species.
This conservation asset includes Dry Flatwoods, Mesic Flatwoods and Scrubby Flatwoods.
Altered fire regimes or the absence of fire, along with other climatic changes, could lead to compositional and structural changes, potentially altering their suitability to the current suite of species. The absence of fire in flatwoods communities can lead to an increase in woody mid-story vegetation.
Drought and heat stress caused by increased temperatures can lead to increased insect outbreaks and mortality. Higher winter air temperatures will increase over-wintering Southern pine beetle larva survival rate, and higher annual air temperatures will allow the beetles to produce more generations per year. Severe drought stress reduces resin production and greatly increases the susceptibility of trees to beetle infestation.
Increased summer and winter minimum temperatures, as well as extreme events (e.g., droughts, floods) that cause disturbance to the system will enhance invasive species processes, from introduction through establishment and expansion.
More information about general climate impacts to habitats in Florida.
Species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, Sherman's fox squirrel, and Sherman's short-tailed shrew rely on the herbaceous groundcover maintained by prescribed fire. Alterations to the frequency or seasonality of fire would lead to habitat degradation, fragmentation and loss due to heavy hardwood and shrub encroachment.
Loss of mature longleaf pine due to heat-induced stress, storms and/or insect outbreaks would reduce the number of suitable nest cavity trees for red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Loss of natural pinelands, leading to a more fragmented landscape, would impact wide-ranging species such as the Florida black bear that utilize pinelands as habitat and travel corridors.
Reduction in prey availability (e.g., insects) due to changes in temperature and in the timing and amount of precipitation could significantly impact species such as the Sherman's short-tailed shrew.
More information about general climate impacts to species in Florida.
This habitat was assessed as part of the Standardized Index of Vulnerability and Value Assessment - Natural Communities (SIVVA).
This habitat is within the top 5 most vulnerable natural communities in one but not all of the SIVVA vulnerability categories.
Read more information about SIVVA natural communities.