Aggressive invaders in the swamp
Sunshine spills across the wet prairie as resource management crews begin their trek to their target. Over muddy roads and then through lush carpets of grasses under stately pine trees, interns hike while carrying herbicide sprayers and machetes. They are leading a small crew of Outward Bound students who are volunteering for a day in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s backcountry; their goal is the treatment of the nasty invasive plant Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebenthifolia).
Brazilian pepper was introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1840s. This aggressive invader displaces native plants and reduces the quality of habitat. As these plants become larger, they form dense stands that shade out native plants, can change fire behavior, and reduce water quality. The interns train the volunteers on identification and treatment while overseeing their safety and progress.
Meanwhile two other groups from Outward Bound work with resource managers. One group works to remove vegetation from around the visitor center. This helps protect the beautiful educational facility from wildfires. The other group thins overgrown vegetation along the boardwalk, opening up habitat for foraging wading birds. Both activities improve aesthetics from the boardwalk thus improving the visitor experience.
Having groups work along the boardwalk also allows the boardwalk naturalists to educate the public on the importance and variety of land management practices Corkscrew uses to improve and maintain the health of the watershed.
Partnerships and projects like these are essential to the conservation work done at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Visitors see a small yet diverse sample of the 13,000 acres that are within the boundary. Management of such a large tract of land requires many hands, able bodies, and a belief in civil engagement. There are many other species of invasive plants (and animals) that resource management staff works to eradicate including melaleuca, java plum, earleaf acacia, torpedograss, and more.
Conservation strategies are determined by sound science and guide the activities and practices of the resource management program. Some of the science teams monitoring efforts include hydrology, mammal monitoring, fish sampling, songbird surveys, wading bird surveys, and herpetological surveys. All the data gathered helps resource managers determine best practices for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Audubon’s Wings internship program allows Corkscrew to grow these partnerships while aiding in the development of the next generation of land managers and biologists. Interns learn the land, how to manage it, and then are able to apply these skills in real world settings with volunteer groups like Outward Bound, AmeriCorps, corporate groups, and university groups. This wouldn’t be possible without the sponsorship of the intern program at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary by the Upton Foundation and Robinson Foundation. The Sanctuary is open every day from 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. For more information visit corkscrew.audubon.org.