Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Puschel Preserve to Support Diverse Wildlife

September 13, 2023
temporary wetlands puschel preserve

Newly shaped wetlands near the entrance of the Puschel Preserve will be planted as a demonstration marsh habitat with walking/biking trails and a pollinator garden. As an edge habitat, the open canopy will meet with the naturally wooded area back by the Sanibel River, providing two different habitat types for wildlife.

The ephemeral wetlands, which have a maximum depth of two feet, are evidence that the wet season has finally arrived.

“These temporary wetlands are very important for the breeding of many invertebrate and vertebrate species such as aquatic insects, amphibians, and live-bearing fish,” said Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz.

The presence of these species also makes the wetlands important for predators such as snakes, turtles, wading birds, and meso-mammals, including raccoons and otters, he added.

Wildlife on Sanibel is adapted to open canopy landscapes. Those habitats support the highest diversity, especially when there is a nearby edge habitat.

Edge Habitats

“Edge habitats are where two different habitat types meet,” said Lechowicz. “On Sanibel, the most obvious edge habitat is where the open grassy zone meets the closed canopy forest.”

Wildlife thrives in this zone by being able to quickly move between the two, such as a bobcat (Lynx rufus) hunting for cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) in a grassy open canopy field. Then, they quickly retreat into the nearby wooded area for cover as people approach.

The Puschel Preserve will support both habitat types to enhance wildlife use. The front section along Periwinkle Way will feature a hiking/biking trail and already has some plantings of native vegetation. After the trail is completed, final plantings will be installed.

Sanibel River Wildlife Corridor

“The back section naturally had more tree cover since it is near the Sanibel River,” said Lechowicz. “It will not be accessible to the public and will support a contiguous wildlife corridor along the river.”

This area is bordered with buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) and other species that can tolerate rainwater inundation and will remain that way.

The wetlands near the front will be planted with cord grass (Spartina bakeri), sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) arrowhead (Sagittarea latifolia), pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), and water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri). There will not be dense plantings of canopy trees on the north end to ensure that the property does not become a dense forest again which decreases wildlife diversity.


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