October 7th, 2004 Field Excursion to Avon Park Air Force Range

The field trip will highlight long-term monitoring of dry prairie vegetation, differences among dry prairie community types, landscape level characteristics of dry prairie, and the presettlement pineland and prairie boundary. Access to a scoring tower on an active bombing range will provide a bird's eye view of dry prairie and illustrate how the military mission is compatible with ecosystem management. While en-route to the designated stops, ecosystem management and various restoration projects at APAFR will be described.


Avon Park Air Force Range, (APAFR), a 106,000 acre military installation in southeastern Polk and northeastern Highlands counties, contains over 58,000 acres of natural area quality lands. Avon Park Air Force Range and surrounding conservation areas total over a quarter million acres of land that serve a key role in protecting the regional biodiversity. Perhaps unique to APAFR is the long uninterrupted history of prescribed fire and lightning and mission fires that have helped maintain the overall ecological integrity. Some of the best examples of intact landscapes characteristic of south-central Florida are found in and near active air-to-ground training ranges where frequent fires are assured and unexploded ordnance provide protection from development.


Despite its once vast extent and rich flora and fauna, dry prairie has remained one of the most poorly described ecosystems in North America. Originally dry prairie covered approximately 1.2 million acres in Florida, an area nearly the size of Everglades National Park (1,399,078 acres), yet, it has been far less studied.

APAFR lies within the pine savanna-flatwoods/dry prairie region of south-central Florida and is the only federally-owned land containing dry prairie. Public land surveys and notes reveal that the presettlement extent of dry prairie at APAFR was approximately 24,000 acres of which about 18,000 acres remain. Avon Park Air Force Range dry prairie is part of the Kissimmee River valley dry prairie region, an area that historically encompassed some 786 square miles (503,428 acres).

The vascular flora of APAFR currently totals 1,050 plant taxa (82% native), representing nearly 45% of the flora of central Florida. Included are some 15 globally rare plants, two federal listed plants, and 17 rare plant community types. Many of the regionally endemic plants found at APAFR inhabit the pine savanna-flatwoods/dry prairie community. Species richness within the pine savanna-flatwoods/dry prairie landscape at APAFR is exceptionally high, with a single-event quantitative vegetation sampling having documented up to 49 species in 1m2, 118 species in 100 m2, and 170 species in 1000 m2.

Don't miss this opportunity, register early to guarantee your reservation!


8:00 A.M
Board buses at Chateau Elan.
8:10 A.M
Depart Chateau Elan ( you may drive your own vehicle to the Avon Park Air Force Range but must travel by bus during the field trip).
9:00 A.M
(ca 10-15 minutes): Rest stop at Administration bldg 29.
9:30 A.M - 10:00 A.M
Stop 1 (ca 30 minutes): View and discuss Florida Grasshopper Sparrow habitat. Examine long-term vegetation monitoring plots in grazed and cattle exclosure areas. Discuss various dry prairie community types.
10:15 A.M - 10:45 A.M
Stop 2 (ca 30 minutes): View pineland, pine savanna, and prairie landscape gradient in Charlie Range.
11:00 A.M - 11:30 A.M
Stop 3 (ca 30 minutes): Enter the Charlie/Echo bombing range complex to view prairie and military mission from scoring tower.
11:45 A.M
Stop 4 (55 minutes): Food and refreshments at Morgan Hole Campground.
12:40 P.M
Rest stop at Administration bldg 29.
1:05 P.M
Board bus for departure.
1:55 P.M
Arrive Chateau Elan.

To guarantee your reservation, register early! Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to security issues and/or mission scheduling conflicts.

For more information contact: Doreen DiCarlo at CES
Phone: 561-799-8553 | Fax: 561-626-1404 | E-mail: ddicarlo@ces.fau.edu