The Lower Suwannee Refuge is working with several potential partners on submitting grants for Gulf oil spill funds to conduct a hydrologic engineering assessment in preparation for restoring more natural hydrology on the Refuge.
The 143 miles of Refuge roads and trails are former logging roads constructed to access timber stands. Natural hydrologic flow and connections to the Suwannee River Sound, estuary, and Big Bend region of the Gulf of Mexico is negatively impacted by this old road network. The roads function the same way levees or dikes would. They impound the water and in many instances redirect it into culverts, disrupting natural sheet flow. This blockage of surface flow means that much of this water does not make it to the estuary. It is detained long enough to evaporate inland altering the estuarine balance and the ecology and productivity of the nearshore waters. This affects freshwater and marine fisheries that are important for recreation and commerce.
The proposals being worked on address the most significant road features, the Dixie Mainline and the southern half of the Nature Drive. They seek to restore hydrology on the Refuge through:
Researcher Joe Donoghue, of the Planetary Sciences Group in the Department of Physics at the University of Central Florida, and his graduate students are conducting research on the Lower Suwannee NWR to determine the paleo-climate of Florida. They are collecting sediment cores from coastal ponds that would likely have been inundated by marine water and sediment during long-ago storm surges. The sediment cores will be carbon-dated and analyzed to determine sediment grain size and geo-chemical make up. The results may be able to provide a history of major storm events in the region for as far back as several thousand years.
Friends members Libby Cagle and Roger McDaniels happened upon the researchers when taking visitors along the Nature Drive recently.
After a severe drought dating back to last fall, the Refuge has finally gotten enough rainfall to resume prescribed burning. The Refuge recently conducted a successful 850-acre burn on the Triangle Loop area near Suwannee Town. With so many unfilled staff vacancies on the Refuge fire crew, the generous assistance provided by the Florida State Park Service, Florida Forest Service, and the staff of the St Marks NWR was greatly appreciated.