Next week, SCCF will begin the preliminary steps of a multi-phase restoration project on the newly acquired Periwinkle Wetlands Preserve.
“We are grateful that we were able to acquire these key 12-plus acres and we ask the public to please understand that we must clear the land of exotics before we can restore it,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera. “Since it’s right on Perwinkle Way and highly visible, we want to explain the process so a return to a diverse, natural habitat is well understood.”
Land Clearing Phase
Over the next several months, contractors will be conducting the land clearing phase, which will include the removal and eradication of dense stands of large, invasive exotic trees. The work will be overseen by SCCF Habitat Management staff and vegetation debris will be mulched on-site.
In addition to the tree removal, SCCF staff will be conducting selective herbicide treatments to manage invasive exotic vines, groundcovers, and grasses. Habitat Management also will begin to revegetate many areas throughout the property and construct hiking trails.
SCCF wants island residents and passersby to understand what is happening at the site as it begins to unfold.
“As the initial land clearing portion progresses, the conversion from densely vegetated to nearly barren land can often seem destructive and a shock to the senses. However, as the planting stage begins to take root, the landscape rapidly transitions back to a diverse, natural habitat,” explained Land Conservation Steward Victor Young.
Removing exotic plants — which lack any native predators or pests to keep them in check — is key to successful restoration.
“Invasive species can become dominant, rapidly displacing native plant communities and resulting in the loss of key habitats for migratory and resident bird populations as well as other animal species found throughout Sanibel Island,” Young said. Restoring land to its historic natural state reinforces SCCF’s rich history of conservation and its core mission “to protect and care for Southwest Florida's coastal ecosystems.”
Young said the timing of the restoration was planned around nature itself, and a firm completion date has not been established.
“Restoration projects often take place over an extended period and many factors contribute to the time it takes to complete a project,” he said. “As summer approaches, thunderstorms, seasonal flooding, and hurricanes can delay portions of the restoration.”