Assessing Wildlife Usage of Reclaimed Phosphate-mined Lands and Unmined Lands

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Conference Proceeding

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Florida, wildlife, colonization, focal species, phosphate mining, regional planning

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Although phosphate mining necessarily destroys extensive amounts of wildlife habitat, the industry attempts to minimize the long-term effects of the strip mining by reclaiming some of the land to make it suitable for wildlife. We have studied a spectrum ofunmined (reference) and previously mined (reclaimed) lands to determine how well reclaimed lands can support vertebrate wildlife species. We studied 100 sites, spread over an area of about 1,000 square miles of west-central Florida. Thirty reference sites were xeric (dry) uplands (scrub, sandhill), and 30 were mesic (moderately wet) flatlands (pine flatwoods and dry prairies), and the remaining 40 were reclaimed sites that varied from mesic-like to xeric-like in their flora and fauna. Mesic flatlands are more extensive than the xeric uplands which often are patchy habitat islands surrounded by mesic flatlands. Collectively, xeric upland and mesic flatlands each support about 75 resident vertebrate species. Individually, mesic sites supported fewer species than mesic sites. Reclaimed sites, whether mesic-like or xeric-like, supported fewer species than respective reference sites. We documented a 50% overlap of resident species at mesic and xeric reference sites. "Focal species" are those that are under-represented at reclaimed sites relative to reference sites. The total list of focal species, from the xeric (28 species) and mesic (12 species) sites combined, includes 5 amphibians, 8 reptiles, 1 mammal, and 17 birds. Roughly 60% of the focal species resided at xeric reference sites, 10% resided at mesic reference sites, and 30 % were resident of both reference sites. Our findings indicate that current reclamation practices are not adequate to maintain a vertebrate fauna representative of the regional mesic flatlands and xeric uplands. All of our results indicate that the reclamation of terrestrial habitats for wildlife in central Florida should be planned on a broad scale and integrated to include the mostly protected hydric habitats, the relatively extensive mesic habitats, and the patchy xeric habitats.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Assessing Wildlife Usage of Reclaimed Phosphate-mined Lands and Unmined Lands, presented at American Society of Mining and Reclamation, p. 386-396