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Brevard County, Florida
 
Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program

Imperiled Scrub Ecosystem

Abstract

Scrub ecosystems - Brevard County EEL ProgramScrub ecosystems are rapidly declining throughout its historic range in coastal Brevard County, Florida. Bergan (1994) found an estimated 68.8% loss in Atlantic Coastal Ridge scrub habitat from 1943 to 1991 in North Brevard County.[1] Brevard County scrub habitats are regionally significant in that they support some of the largest Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) populations remaining in the State of Florida, as well as other species of conservation concern.

In a grassroots effort to protect the ecosystems, natural communities and species that contribute to Brevard County's rich biological diversity, the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program was established by Brevard County voters in a 1990 referendum.

The Vision of the EEL Program is to acquire, protect, and maintain environmentally endangered lands guided by scientific principles for conservation and the best available practices for resources stewardship and ecosystem management. The EEL Program established the Brevard County Coastal Scrub Ecosystem Initiative (CSEI), one of three regional conservation projects designed and implemented by the EEL Program, to protect and manage scrub at a landscape scale. This presentation focuses on the acquisition and management strategies implemented by the EEL Program to protect and enhance the habitat quality of Brevard County's important scrub ecosystems.


Introduction

The steep declines in both scrub habitat and Florida Scrub-Jay populations can be directly correlated to the expansive growth of Brevard County's human population during the past 60 years( Figure 1 ).[2]

Brevard County experienced an estimated 2,786% increase in population between 1940 and 1999.[2] An estimated 70% reduction in scrub habitat and 87% decline in Florida Scrub-Jays occurred on the Brevard County mainland during the same time period (Table 1).[2] The primary cause of scrub habitat loss in Brevard County is the conversion of this high, dry land into agricultural, commercial and residential land uses.[3,4,5] The remaining scrub parcels are highly fragmented and generally provide poor quality habitat to dependent species due to long-term fire suppression.[6,7]

These trends, which are mirrored Statewide, threaten Florida's only endemic bird, the Florida Scrub-Jay, with extinction.[5,8] Recognizing the importance of scrub, Brevard County citizens initiated a local strategic planning effort to protect the remaining fragments of this globally rare[9] ecosystem.

Scrub Ecosystem - Brevard County EEL Program


Scrub Ecosystem - Brevard County EEL Program


Methods

The EEL Program-A Local Conservation Initiative

Understanding that protection and preservation of biological diversity is in the public's interest[10], Brevard County's voters supported a bond referendum authorizing the issuance of ad valorem tax bonds for up to $55 million, or up to 20 years, to acquire, protect, and manage endangered lands and to make improvements as appropriate for provision of public access, passive recreation and environmental education. Approval of the referendum in 1990 established Brevard County's Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program.

EEL Land Acquisition Program
EEL Sanctuary Management Program


Dicerandra scrub - Brevard County EEL ProgramResults & Discussion

Establishment of the Brevard Coastal Scrub Ecosystem Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Project

To secure protection of Brevard County's remaining scrub habitats and dependent rare species, particularly the threatened Florida Scrub-Jay, the EEL Program developed the Brevard Coastal Scrub Ecosystem Initiative (BCSEI) CARL Project in 1996. This project expanded the EEL Program's original scrub conservation initiative, the 9,600 acre Scrub Jay Refugia CARL Project established in 1992, to more than 26,000 acres identified for acquisition.

Scrub Lizard - Brevard County EEL ProgramThe scientific foundation of the BCSEI project was heavily based on data collected in support of the Brevard County Scrub Conservation and Development Plan (SCDP), a Habitat Conservation Plan designed, but not implemented, to ensure long-term survival of the Florida Scrub-Jay.[11]



Conclusion

Scrub - Brevard County EEL ProgramThe Brevard Coastal Scrub Ecosystem Initiative CARL Project is a local conservation initiative that protects one of the most unique and endangered upland communities in North America.

The foundation of the conservation project design is based on scientifically defensible data complied in support of the Brevard County SCDP. The EEL Program expanded the SCDP project area at the directive of the EEL SMC to include surrounding mesic matrix habitat types that are essential for protection of the focal scrub habitats and habitat linkages. The primary goal of this project is to protect the remaining best fragments of the scrub ecosystem to enhance the survival potential of the Florida Scrub-Jay and associated rare flora and fauna in the rapidly growing Brevard County.

With its partners, the EEL Program has been successful in acquiring more than 10,000 acres of scrub and surrounding matrix habitat identified in the CARL project area. There remains an additional 16,000 acres

The EEL Program is committed to both acquisition and management of scrub properties comprising this project due to the global significance of this acquisition project to the long-term survival of the Florida Scrub-Jay. The Brevard County Coastal Scrub Ecosystem Initiative CARL Project complements State and Federal land conservation efforts that, with aggressive and immediate management to improve habitat quality, have the potential to recover and maintain the fourth largest Scrub-Jay population in the State of Florida.[8]

The accomplishments of this program would not be possible without the scientific foundation, dedicated partnerships and most important, the continued support of Brevard County's citizens.


Literature Cited



Authors

Robinson, Tami L., and Lisa H. Smith

Former Staff Members of

Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department
Environmentally Endangered Lands Program
91 East Drive, Melbourne, FL 32904

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