Important Bird Areas

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Florida

Located in southwestern Collier County approximately 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Naples, from U.S. Highway 41 south to the Gulf of Mexico. The western boundary is County Road 92 (except for a small parcel west of this road) and the eastern boundary is just west of Faka Union Canal. The Refuge surrounds Collier?Seminole State Park on three sides, overlays a portion of Cape Romano?Ten Thousand Islands State Aquatic Preserve, and is just west of Everglades National Park. Contiguous with the Big Cypress Swamp Ecosystem IBA to the north, the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve to the west, and near the Everglades National Park IBA to the east and southeast.

Encompassing the northern Ten Thousand Islands region of southwest Florida, the Refuge was established in 1996 to protect its unique subtropical estuarine ecosystem and its wildlife resources.

The Refuge is part of a larger Ten Thousand Islands system, which is one of the largest and most pristine mangrove systems in the Western Hemisphere. +Odum and McIvor (1990) refer to the region as ?part of the most significant wilderness area? in Florida. The Refuge supports 45 listed species, including 12 plants, 1 invertebrate, 1 fish, 6 reptiles, 21 birds, and 5 mammals. ? The Calusa Indians were known to inhabit the region in the 17th century, and were present when the Spaniards explored the area. Indian artifacts have been found throughout the Refuge, primarily in the tropical hammocks. ? Part of this IBA has been designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area.

Ornithological Summary

The Refuge supports very large numbers of wading birds, and undoubtedly significant numbers of mangrove-breeding species. Cuban Yellow Warblers reach their northwestern-most range at the Refuge.

Conservation Issues

*altered hydrology, exotic plants

Perhaps the most significant short- and long-term impact to the Refuge is the Southern Golden Gate Estates (SGGE) Restoration Project. The SGGE is an area of about 60,000 acres (24,000 hectares) that is part of the bankrupt Gulf of America Corporation's (GAC) massive planned development. From 1968 through 1971, GAC excavated a series of canals that drastically drained the area and changed its ecology. Prior to development, the area was characterized by seasonal flooding and broad, slow-moving sheet flow that served as the headwaters of the Ten Thousand Islands system. Today, 40 miles (64 km) of canals intercept large volumes of surface and groundwater flow and quickly divert them into Faka Union Bay, thus over-draining the area and damaging the ecology of the estuary. The federal and state governments are buying back hundreds of 5-, 10-, and 20-acre (2-, 4-, and 8-hectare) lots to create Picayune Strand State Forest. The South Florida Water Management District's ?Hydrologic Restoration of Southern Golden Gate Estates Conceptual Plan? proposes to restore the hydrology and sheet water flow to the SGGE area by blocking canals, removing roads, and pumping water out of canals. The plan cannot begin all the private lots are purchased or condemned. ? Large-scale removal programs are underway for exotic plants, especially Brazilian pepper, Australian-pine, and latherleaf. ? A variety of recreational and commercial uses (e.g., commercial and sport fishing, crabbing, and waterfowl hunting) occur on the Refuge, which may eventually create excessive human disturbance. Ecotourism includes canoe camping trips, boat cruises, and shelling trips. ? Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge has an approved Comprehensive Conservation Plan that provides the framework for management for the next 15 years. Included within the Plan are several proposed actions to address some of the above concerns.

Habitat

*mangrove forest, *non-tidal brackish marsh, *estuarine, tropical hammock, freshwater marsh, cattail marsh, sawgrass marsh, riverine, lacustrine, coastal strand

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