Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area, 2868 ha
Emeralda Marsh SOR Project, 3487 ha

North of Leesburg in the Upper Ocklawaha River basin, in northwestern Lake County and southeastern Marion County, along the eastern shore of Lake Griffin. Bordered by State Road 42 to the north and County Road 452 to the east. Nearly all acquired lands are in Lake County. Contiguous with the Ocala National Forest?Lake George IBA to the north.

Former marshland that was converted to vegetable farms in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the soils are rich muck derived from drained peat. Public acquisition began in 1991, and flooding began the following year to restore aquatic and wetland habitats. Areas adjacent to Lake Griffin are being converted to marsh flow-ways to remove excess phosphorus and sediments from the lake. The Conservation Area receives 1150 recreationists and 150 hunters annually.

Emeralda Marsh is part of the Ocklawaha River Restoration Project and is adjacent to Lake Griffin, the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River. The marsh and adjacent lakes support a large population of ?American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis).

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of Endangered species; significant numbers of wading birds; and significant natural habitats (under restoration)

The marshes supports dozens of wetland species, including large numbers of wading birds

Conservation Issues

*exotic plants, *habitat succession, human disturbance, feral hogs

Thousands of additional acres are sought for public purchase would, if acquired, connect the Conservation Area with Ocala National Forest to the north. ? Exotic plants and feral hogs are controlled as needed. ? Monthly bird surveys were conducted by Water Management District staff and volunteers between 1995 and 2000.

Ownership

St. Johns River Water Management District (Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area) and private owners (remaining acreage of the Emeralda Marsh SOR Project)

Habitat

*agricultural fields, *freshwater marsh, *cattail marsh, *lacustrine, temperate hammock, non-native pasture, hardwood swamp

Land Use

*conservation, *marsh filtering system to clean up Lake Griffin, *vegetable farming (private lands), recreation, waterfowl hunting

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