Over the past 20 years, IRC has developed a number of programs designed to prevent regional extinctions of rare plants, animals and ecosystems and to improve conservation and restoration projects on a regional basis. Central to this work is a belief that people can work with nature to restore ecosystems and a healthy sense of place. In fact, we believe our future depends on it.
Our programs are designed to accomplish conservation in the real world. They are based on the following methods: collecting baseline scientific data; assessing, planning and providing technical support for conservation; designing and implementing ecological restoration projects and long-term management programs; monitoring the effects of conservation projects on rare species and ecosystems and assessing needs for adaptive management; providing public education and publishing the results of our work online and in technical and popular journals; and, nurturing a community of supporters to help us achieve our mission.
Since 1994, our main focus has been to develop and test methods for rare plants conservation in South Florida. We are now working closely with other conservationists, scientists and land managers to test our methods with plants around the Caribbean basin as well as with animals in South Florida and the Bahamas. To this aim, we have hired new staff with expertise in animal conservation and invested critical resources at several key project sites in the Caribbean. If you are interested in developing joint programs with IRC in your area, please let us know. Also, see our projects, publications and presentations pages for more details about our activities.
We also conduct single and multi-species surveys to augment inventory data, especially for rarer native species and invasive exotics. The collection of GIS (geographic) data and mapping usually accompany survey work. Current survey and mapping projects include: (1) surveying and mapping 200 rare native and 100 invasive introduced plant species along 700 miles of roadway in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, Florida in collaboration with the University of Florida and Florida Natural Areas Inventory; and, (2) conducting a status survey of the federally-threatened Garber’s spruge (Chamaesyce garberi) for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A large multi-faceted project in Everglades National Park includes a surveying and mapping element for rare plants on Long Pine Key, one of the main areas of rare plant concentration in the park. IRC also collaborates with the US National Park Service and others in
vegetation mapping design and assessment, which is critical to long-term ecosystem monitoring. In collaboration with Miami-Dade County and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, we have developed new methodology and mapped all remnant upland ecosystem fragments within an urban and suburban matrix in Miami-Dade County. We also conduct basic ecological research on rare species and ecosystems, including demographic research on rare endemic cacti in peninsular Florida and rare endemic iguanas in the Bahamas.
Conservation Assessment and Planning
Baseline data collected are used to assess conservation needs. Our first major conservation assessment, of the flora of South Florida, was published as the book Rare Plants of South Florida: Their History, Conservation, and Restoration (Gann, Bradley, & Woodmansee, 2002), which serves as the basis of our Restoring South Florida’s Native Plant Heritage program. This assessment included research, conservation and restoration recommendations for about 350 of the rarest plants in South Florida and nearly 250 conservation areas. Using similar methodology, we are now in the process of assessing the flora of Puerto Rico, the northern karst belt of Puerto Rico, and the Florida Keys. Our 2002 assessment of Everglades National Park in “Rare Plants” led to the development of a five-year, $300,000 cooperative project to survey, map, monitor and restore populations of rare plants on Long Pine Key. We have recently started working with US-based Heritage Preservation to conduct conservation assessments of botanical gardens in South Florida and the US Virgin Islands.
Since 1996, we have participated in writing management plans for conservation areas managed by local government agencies. We have also contributed to the South Florida Multi-Species Management Plan, published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999, and the Miami-Dade County Natural Areas Management Plan, published by Miami-Dade County in 2004. Currently, we are working with URS Corporation to write management plans for conservation areas managed by the Miami-Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program.
Ecological Restoration and Management
Following conservation assessments, IRC collaborates with conservation lands managers and other non-profit institutions such as Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (FTBG), Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (MSBG) and Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden (KWBG) to implement recommendations to restore populations of rare plants as well as rare ecosystems as part of our Restoring South Florida’s Native Plant Heritage program. In Everglades National Park, IRC is collaborating with the National Park Service, FTBG and MSBG to restore depleted and extirpated populations of rare plants on Long Pine Key. IRC is working with KWBG to implement recommendations in “Rare Plants” to restore high elevation rockland hammocks and populations of rare plant species in the City of Key West.
IRC also works with owners of private conservation lands to restore rockland ecosystems and rare species in Miami-Dade County. This Pine Rockland Initiative program began through a grant with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which seeks to support private landowners to protect and restore habitat for federally-listed species in South Florida. IRC also owns two pine rockland preserves harboring federally-listed and regionally rare plants, which we are in the process of restoring. IRC actively recruits volunteers from our community and has partnered with several community-based organizations and educational institutions including Hands on Miami, Tropical Audubon Society, Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida and Florida International University. Our goal is to restore more than 50 acres of the globally-imperiled pine rockland ecosystem by the end of 2007.
Finally, we are in the process of initiating our Restoring The Link program, which will include private conservation lands restoration, a native plant nursery to cultivate native plants not normally carried by the native plant industry and a small scale native plant landscaping and ecosystem restoration team to provide services to homeowners and organizations interested in native plants and native plant gardening.
Monitoring and Adaptive Management
Monitoring and adaptive management elements are included in all of our restoration projects. We collaborate with the National Park Service, Florida International University and other institutions to conduct long-term monitoring of vegetation, rare plants and exotic species as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). We also provide technical assistance to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Miami-Dade County in setting up and implementing a long-term monitoring program for rare plants in county-owned conservation areas.
Education and Publishing
IRC has an excellent track record of sharing the results of our work with scientists, land managers and the interested public as well as encouraging conservation and ecological restoration on a broad scale. IRC staff gives numerous presentations every year and results of our work are published in agency reports, peer-review journals and popular publications. Our web resources, the Floristic Inventory of South Florida Database Online and Natives For Your Neighborhood, are used by thousands of people every month. Our staff serves on the boards and volunteer for other conservation organizations including Tropical Audubon Society,
Florida Native Plant Society, Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council and Society for Ecological Restoration International. We also sponsor public outreach and education workshops, including the Dade Native Plant Workshop, a monthly hands-on plant identification event.
Nurturing a Community of Supporters
Finally, IRC believes that conservation will not succeed unless local communities support and believe in the work. In response, IRC has formed the Friends of IRC, a support organization to promote the welfare and growth of IRC, to enrich its resources, and to make its services and needs known to the community. Please join us in making our work a success!