Canaveral National Seashore Case Study

From ancient times to the present, the barrier island that is Canaveral National Seashore has provided sanctuary and sustenance to humans of many cultures; traces of their existence along with the water, the wildlife and plant life provide us with a timeless view of old Florida.

View the text version of the Canaveral Case Study.

Canaveral National Seashore Case Study

From ancient times to the present, the barrier island that is Canaveral National Seashore has provided sanctuary and sustenance to humans of many cultures; traces of their existence along with the water, the wildlife and plant life provide us with a timeless view of old Florida.

View the multimedia version of the Canaveral Case Study. (Flash Required.)

Canaveral National Seashore—Case Study—Text Version

A fire-dependent ecosystem.

Slide 1

ONSCREEN: Three sea turtle species, the loggerhead, green and leatherback, deposit nearly 4,000 nests on Canaveral National Seashore each year.

NARRATOR: Canaveral National Seashore offers a rare glimpse of a wild and undeveloped Florida. Its 58,000 acres is home to a variety of wildlife, from the bald eagle to the manatee.

Slide 2

ONSCREEN: Over 1,000 species of plants have been identified, including the live oak scrub, pine flatwoods and mangroves.

NARRATOR: The park also contains a unique mixture of sub-tropical and temperate plants.

Slide 3

ONSCREEN: These include several hundred thousand ducks, coots, and a variety of migrating and wintering shorebirds.

NARRATOR: While large numbers of waterfowl and wading birds use the seashore as a migratory stop-over.

Slide 4

ONSCREEN: These fires occurred every two to 12 years, preventing overgrowth while allowing new seedlings to take hold.

NARRATOR: For thousands of years, lightning-ignited fires burned across the landscape. The native plant and animal communities adapted to them, and now their survival depends on these periodic fires.

Slide 5

ONSCREEN: The Florida scrub used to span much of the state but now is in danger.

NARRATOR: But in central Florida, the lightning capital of America, 50 years of fire suppression has caused trees and bushes to grow uncontrollably, reducing vital plants like the pine tree—a favored nesting site to the bald eagle.

Slide 6

ONSCREEN: Fire experts determine the ranges of temperature, wind-speed, and wind direction that must be met before a prescribed fire is conducted.

NARRATOR: The park is attempting to safely bring back the fires to restore the central Florida ecosystem. Burned areas rebound quickly, and the benefit to native species is immeasurable.

Slide 7

ONSCREEN: In the 1930s, the population of bald eagles around Canaveral National Seashore was among the densest in Florida.

NARRATOR: In 2007, only 14 bald eagle nests were recorded in the park and adjacent wildlife refuge. Carefully controlled fires will bring back the pine trees, making the area more welcoming for eagles.

Slide 8

ONSCREEN: The Florida scrub jay is now listed as a threatened species.

NARRATOR: The Florida scrub jay has adapted a unique lifestyle and attracts birders from miles around. But overgrown scrub means less space for the jay to store food, while cooper’s hawks can now hide among the vegetation and ambush the unsuspecting bird.

Slide 9

ONSCREEN: The gopher tortoise is also protected species. If its numbers drop significantly, other species that rely upon its burrows for shelter will be impacted.

NARRATOR: The gopher tortoise plays a particularly vital role in the ecosystem—it’s a hard-working digger whose burrows provide critical shelter for dozens of other species of animals. Biologists are deeply concerned about its future, as its sandy habitat is disappearing.

Slide 10

ONSCREEN: Some saw palmetto plants may be as old as 500–700 years.

NARRATOR: Due to its large root system, the saw palmetto is among the first species to green up after a fire. But it is also highly flammable—too much, and it will turn a fire into an inferno.

Slide 11

ONSCREEN: The more frequent the fires, the easier they are to control.

NARRATOR: Wildfires once played a vital role in maintaining natural plant and animal communities at Canaveral National Seashore. Now, park managers are ensuring that the Florida scrub thrives the way nature intended.