< Coastal Ecosystem

SUBSTRATE AND TOPOGRAPHY:  Sandy, sometimes mixed with calcium carbonate; linear barrier islands and some other shorelines along coast; sandy capes; typically contain parallel zones of upper beach, undulating foredune, transition or "backdune," and stable dune, sloping upward and away from the water's edge.

VEGETATION:   Foredunes contain grasses such as sea oats; a variety of forest vegetation is characteristic of stable dunes:  going south from Cape Canaveral on east and from Tampa Bay on west, gradually changes from domination by temperate species to domination by tropical species; at least 22 species of endemic plants are found in dunes and maritime forests.

FAUNA:  Beaches are the most important nesting site for loggerhead turtle in the Western Hemisphere, as well as for several species of shore birds, including the endangered snowy plover; dunes and forests are wintering grounds for many other bird species and habitat for several special-interest species of small rodents.

PROCESSES / DYNAMICS / ABIOTIC FACTORS:  Wind- and wave-driven sand interact with pioneer grasses to build dunes; waves from hurricanes may destroy dunes.

HUMAN IMPACTS:  Development of beach front, with greatest impacts near Ft. Walton, Jacksonville, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Clearwater-St. Petersburg; by 1975 nearly 20% of Florida's barrier islands had been developed; exotic plants such as Australian pine, Brazilian pepper, and sisal are also a serious problem.

ANIMALS AND PLANTS NATIVE TO ECOSYSTEM: List of selectable animals and plants native to the Dunes and Maritime Forests ecosystem, with detailed descriptions and pictures on each.

Copyright © 2010 The Florida Geographic Alliance