Important Bird Areas

Wekiwa Basin GEOPark

Florida

The GEOpark is a large, contiguous natural area essential for preservation of the local black bear population. Together with the Wekiva?Ocala Greenway IBA, it is a critical link to the Ocala National Forest?Lake George IBA to the north. The GEOpark receives 300,000 recreationists annually.

In eastern Lake County, western Volusia County, and northern Orange County, between State Road 44 and the St. Johns and Wekiwa rivers. Contiguous with the Wekiva?Ocala Greenway IBA to the north.

The GEOpark contains 19 natural communities that support 50 listed plants and animals, including two species of snails that are endemic to Wekiwa Springs State Park: the ?Wekiwa hydrobe (Aphaostracon monas) and ?Wekiwa siltsnail (Cincinnatia wekiwae). The snails have not been surveyed since the 1970s; future surveys are planned. Some plants in the park are more closely related to habitats in the Appalachian Mountains than to those in central Florida. ? Black bears occur on all three properties, and preservation of this population was the primary reason for the Wekiva?Ocala Greenway CARL?FF Project, which has added substantial publicly-owned acreage to this IBA. A recent radio-monitoring study documented that the Wekiva Basin contains the highest density of bears in the state?and also the greatest number of road-kills. This situation will worsen when highways such as State Road 46 are widened. ? Over 25 Indian middens have been documented within the GEOpark. A cemetery at the former town of Markham, dating from the late 1800s, also is found onsite. ? In 2000, the Wekiva River and its tributaries were designated a National Wild and Scenic River, one of only two rivers in Florida so designated, and the only river in the state designated in its entirety. ? Wekiwa Springs discharges 40 million gallons (151 million liters) of water per day and is a second-magnitude spring. ? Part of this IBA has been designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area.

Lower Wekiva River State Preserve, 70889 ha
Rock Springs Run State Reserve, 5662 ha
Wekiwa Springs State Park, 3213 ha

Ornithological Summary

Significant populations of Watch List species; significant numbers and diversity of Neotropical migrants; and significant natural habitats

The GEOpark supports populations of pine flatwoods and sandhill species, and upland forests are used by a large number of Neotropical migrant species. A MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survival) station that was established in 1995 had captured over 14,000 birds by 2000.

Conservation Issues

*offsite development, *altered hydrology, human disturbance, exotic plants, habitat succession, cowbird brood parasitism, feral hogs, feral dogs, feral cats

The GEOpark has an approved management plan, from which all of the following information was obtained. ? The flatwoods and sandhills were logged in the 1930s and 1940s, and became invaded by oaks in the absence of fire. These habitats are being restored using prescribed fire and herbicides to remove the hardwoods. Prescribed fire is being used to restore overgrown scrubby flatwoods habitats to benefit Florida Scrub-Jays and other species. Overall, the prescribed burning program has been very successful at restoring and maintaining habitats, but increased acreage needing burning, and a shortage of trained staff, are increasing problems. Sandhills are burned every 1?5 years, hydric flatwoods every 2?6 years, mesic flatwoods every 3?8 years, and sand pine scrub every 30 years. ? Cypresses along the creeks and rivers were logged early in the 20th century, and have not regenerated. Replanting in selected areas is being considered. ? Water quality within the GEOpark is good, and is monitored quarterly to assess any impacts from off-site development. Offsite development has reduced water quantity at Rock Springs Run State Reserve from 19 cubic feet (0.7 cubic m) per second in 1969 to 13 cubic feet (0.48 cubic m) per second in 1982. Habitats that previously were floodplain forest have changed to hydric hammock, and some wetlands are now dry for most of the year. ? Development has severely impacted Lake Prevatt, which now receives much more water than historically, and none of this is treated prior to release. ? Exotic plants are a problem in some areas. ? Wild taro is a ?very serious? problem along much of Rock Springs Run that would require ?many years of concerted effort? to remove, but staff shortages make control unlikely. Common water-hyacinth is a relatively minor problem. Air-potato occurs widely in the Park and control ?may be impossible.? A ?very large infestation? of ?camphortrees (Cinnamomum camphora) occurs at Rock Springs Run State Reserve; to date, 1500 trees have been removed. Numerous other species occur in low densities and are treated as needed and when staff have the time to do so. ? A recent effort by the St. Johns River Water Management District to remove feral hogs was quite successful. Feral cats and dogs are lesser problems, and ?should be removed immediately.? ? Except in rare occasions, Burrowing Owls do not occur within the GEOpark but are found nearby. Owls produced by captive (rehabilitated) pairs are released 10 miles (16 km) to the west. Rock Springs Run State Reserve contains extensive areas of pasture, and introduction of Burrowing Owls should be considered. Some of these pasture areas are being restored. ? About 5730 acres (2318 hectares) of private property have been identified as additions to the GEOpark.

Habitat

*longleaf pine flatwoods (8000 acres; 3237 hectares), *temperate hammock (12,000 acres; 4856 hectares), *floodplain swamp (9000 acres; 3642 hectares), *riverine (35 miles; 56 km), sandhills (2100 acres; 849 hectares), xeric oak scrub (120 acres; 48 hectares), sand pine scrub (700 acres; 283 hectares), non-native pasture (2500 acres; 1011 hectares), bayhead (600 acres; 242 hectares), freshwater marsh (1100 acres; 445 hectares), lacustrine, artificial

Land Use

*conservation, *recreation, hunting (Rock Springs Run State Reserve only)