Managing the Landscape

Ditches can be seen on both sides of River Road.

Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park encompasses 4,886 acres.

The land slopes to the west, changing from hydric hammock to wet flatwoods and wet prairie.

The water flows toward the South Fork of the St. Lucie River. Sabal palms and live oaks makeup the overstory, while saw palmetto, wax myrtle and wild coffee hug the ground.

Exotic vegetation competes with native species here, crowding their space, blocking their sunlight and consuming their nutrients.

Exotic species include melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), originally from Australia. These trees grow 50 to 60 feet tall, consume a tremendous amount of water and drop lots of seeds to form new trees.

Brazilian peppertrees (Schinus terebinthifolia) are native to South America. These trees are an aggressive invader in native ecosystems and can grow up to 30 feet high. The bright red berries are attractive to birds, which help spread the berries far and wide, sowing more trees.

Park staff works to remove these species with herbicides and mechanic means. Their efforts are constant and never-ending.

Florida’s native landscape responds well to the application of fire. Park rangers study the plant communities and write a prescription for using fire to benefit the landscape. The prescription considers many factors, including the plants, fuels, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction. The goal is to mimic the benefits of a lightening-set fire without the hazards. The native plants and animals in the ecosystem at Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park are adapted to fire.