Who We Are - The Apalachicola Regional Stewardship Alliance (ARSA) Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) was established in 2003 by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Northwest Florida Program and other stakeholders in the Apalachicola River region with concerns related to non-native invasive species. The primary reason for the creation of the CISMA was to facilitate a network for land managers to address the growing threat of non-native invasive species in the region. Since its inception the CISMA has conducted semiannual meetings, implemented control projects on private lands, assisted land managers with grant writing, compiled and shared data, performed cooperative outreach and education, and participated in other activities related to non-native invasive species. Our goals for the future include the continuation and expansion of these activities, with increased focus on private land control and public education programs. CISMA cooperators as of June 2011 include the following:
Mission - The mission of the ARSA CISMA is to implement a comprehensive, region-wide approach to address the threats invasive aquatic and terrestrial non-native invasive species pose to native ecosystems within the Apalachicola River region (adopted January 2004).
Specific goals of the ARSA CISMA are:
The Apalachicola River region is located in Northwest Florida directly south of the border between Alabama and Georgia. The ARSA CISMA project area includes Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla Counties in Florida.
The ARSA CISMA Plan was produced to help protect the Apalachicola River region and associated natural communities. The confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, north of Jim Woodruff Dam in the City of Chattahoochee, forms the Apalachicola. The Apalachicola River then flows uninhibited through the Florida panhandle for 106 miles before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Periodic inundation of the surrounding floodplain wetlands is essential for maintaining the largest forest floodplain in Florida, which covers over 112,000 acres (Light et al. 1998). This alluvial river pours freshwater and nutrients into the Apalachicola Bay, one of the most productive bays in the country.
The Apalachicola River region is home to a variety of endemic and rare species (see Appendix), making the region one of the five “biological hotspots” in the continental United States (Stein et al. 2000). For example, the greatest density of reptiles and amphibians of any North American region north of Mexico is found in this region (Abell et al. 2000).
The biodiversity of the region is a result of a unique geological history. Clay, sand, silt, and gravel sediments brought down from the lower Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont Plateau were deposited in the region by the Apalachicola River via the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, resulting in varied soil types throughout the region (Whitney et al. 2004). Periodic rise and fall of ocean levels over millions of years also left deposits of sand and limestone, creating rare geological features. These factors, along with a temperate climate, have fostered a variety of natural communities, including coastal uplands, estuarine, floodplain wetlands, mesic uplands, mesic/wet flatlands, riverine, and xeric uplands (Florida Natural Areas Inventory and Florida Department of Natural Resources 1990).
Existing public and private conservation lands help to protect the natural communities and biodiversity of the region. The Apalachicola National Forest, for example, encompasses over 500,000 acres and contains rare natural communities such as wet prairies and pine flatwoods. The acreage of the entire region totals over 3 million acres including over 1.1 million acres of public and private conservation lands (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2011).
In order to maintain the natural integrity of the Apalachicola River region, the threats posed to the region must be identified, assessed, and managed. One of the greatest and most insidious threats to the region is non-native invasive species. The monitoring and management of non-native invasive species will help sustain the natural communities found in the region and protect the myriad species that make the Apalachicola River region one of the most biologically diverse areas in the United States.