Coastal Conservation

Invasive Plant Removal at Florida Coastal Islands Sanctuaries Improves Habitat

A diverse habitat will be more resilient in the face of rising sea levels and temperatures.

Removal of invasive vegetation is nearly complete at Whiskey Stump and Green Keys (the original Hillsborough Bay nesting island), and the Alafia Bank’s Bird and Sunken islands. This effort has largely focused on the highly invasive Brazilian pepper and lead tree. Treatment of invasive species will be followed by planting natives such as buttonwood and Florida privet. 

We will create a diverse habitat that will be more resilient in the face of rising sea levels and temperatures. Restored habitat will not only provide nesting substrate for our herons, egrets, spoonbills, and pelicans, so they can raise the next generation, but will be a refuge for wintering and migrating birds that use the islands for resting and foraging.

“By removing these exotics we are giving native species a chance to establish themselves in their rightful place,” says Jeff Liechty, Assistant Sanctuary Manager for Audubon Florida, “These are special islands for Tampa Bay’s birds, and we should be treating them as such. Restoring native plant communities to these islands is an important element in preserving the whole ecosystem.” 

*The Alafia Bank is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-designated Critical Wildlife Area (CWA) and is leased from and managed in collaboration with The Mosaic Company and Port Tampa Bay as a bird sanctuary.

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