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ForestGEO Welcomes 71st Plot to the Network: Ordway Swisher, Florida, USA

ForestGEO is pleased to introduce our newest research site, the Ordway Swisher Forest Dynamics Plot, a 23.04-ha upland sandhill forest near Melrose, Florida, USA, that undergoes a regimen of prescribed burning every three to four years (including during the establishment of the plot).  Field crews began the census in March 2019 and completed it in February 2020, less than one month before the coronavirus pandemic brought fieldwork around the world to a halt.  Staff have entered and screened census data, which is now available upon request in the ForestGEO Data PortalDan Johnson and Stephanie Bohlman, both of the University of Florida, are the plot’s Principal Investigators. 

To learn more about the site, we encourage you to visit its webpage, RSVP for our upcoming virtual seminar by Dan Johnson, and peruse the photos below.

Thank you to the field crew!   (left) Daniel Hutton and Youssef Kaddoura, (right) Joey Nieves, Jackie Bourdon, Regan Fox, Courtney Deviney, & Allen Percifield. Photo credit: Dan Johnson


Gopher turtles are a keystone species, creating deep burrows that more than 350 species of insects and animals will use for shelter.  There is evidence of a healthy population of gopher turtles at the Ordway Swisher plot.  (left: gopher tortoise burrow; right: baby gopher tortoise next to a pencil for scale).  Photo credit: Dan Johnson


There are 11 tree species >1 cm dbh in the plot, and the dominant one is Pinus palustris, longleaf pine, shown above at different stages of maturity.  This species used to be very prevalent throughout the southern US, but changes to land use have drastically reduced its presence.  Photo credit: Dan Johnson.


Fire is needed to maintain the longleaf pine ecosystem, thus Ordway Swisher undergoes a prescribed burn every three to four years.  The above photos show the plot pre- and post-burn, respectively.  Dan says, “The post burn photo was 1 month after the fire. This system is amazing because of how everything sprouts right back after fire. Notice in the pre-burn photo all the understory woody plants are taller.  The fire kills the aboveground portion, but the root system survives and sends up new shoots within two weeks after the fire.”  Photo credit: Dan Johnson.