November 2, 2022
As you look out into to this part of the 5,000-acre sawgrass marsh, it might be difficult to imagine that until relatively recently the area directly in front of this point had been almost entirely overcome by the encroachment of coastal plain willow (Salix caroliniana). Although this woody shrub is native to the southeastern United States, Mexico and parts of Central America and the Caribbean, it can under the right conditions displace the dominant herbaceous vegetation of marshes like this one. When the hydrology or fire intervals of the marsh are altered, coastal plain willow can take over, crowding out the sawgrass, sedges and grasses and slowly transforming herbaceous marshes into swamps dominated almost entirely by willow shrubs.
Over the last several years, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have worked diligently to restore the marsh ecosystem by removing encroaching willow. Two years ago, the area in front of you was overgrown with coastal plain willow, but from 2021-2022 more than 26 acres of these woody shrubs were removed by mechanical shredding. Restoration of this marsh is important not just for the functioning of the watershed, but also because it ensures critical habitats for frogs, snails, crayfish, and fish, and for the multitude of bird species that prey upon them.
As you look out over the marsh, consider what it may have looked like before and what it may look like again in a few years should climate change and human development around CREW’s margins continue to create conditions for coastal plain willow to begin encroaching yet again.
Your photo contributions will help land managers, scientists and students better understand the hydroperiods of this marsh and the diversity of flora and fauna found here, and track how quickly Carolina willow returns to this area of the marsh.
Learn More at CREW Land & Water Trust
NOTE: CREW’s boardwalks and the observation platform on which you’re standing were constructed from ipe (Tabebuia serratifolia) wood, also known by the trade name Pao Lope. It is extremely hard, rot resistant, and fire resistant, enabling it to withstand the harsh climate of south Florida. Further, because this wood doesn’t need to be chemically treated, it’s a better alternative for protecting the water resources of the watershed than chemically treated lumber, which can leech toxins into the surrounding environment.
The CREW Land & Water Trust is a private, non-profit conservation organization dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of the water resources and natural communities in and around the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW).
CREW is the largest intact watershed in Southwest Florida, straddling Lee and Collier Counties.
What does this unique watershed do for Southwest Florida?
We carry out our mission statement by coordinating the land acquisition, land management, and public use of this 60,000-acre watershed in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, which owns a significant amount of CREW and manages that land – including the CREW trail systems, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission , which monitors wildlife and hunting and provides law enforcement. Other partners include Conservation Collier and Lee County's Conservation 20/20 .