What makes this preserve unique?
Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve supports a significant tract of intact pine flatwood wetlands in southeast Louisiana. It supports high quality examples of longleaf pine flatwood savanna, slash pine–pond cypress woodlands, and bayhead swamps. Nearly 30 rare plants have been identified on the area, including four species that are protected only here in Louisiana: Georgia tickseed (Coreopsis nudata), Louisiana quillwort (Isoetes louisianensis, federally listed: Endangered), Spring Hill flax (Linum macrocarpum), and little-leaf milkwort (Polygala brevifolia). Two of these, Spring Hill flax and little-leaf milkwort, are known only from this area in Louisiana. Rare animals known to be present include a crawfish (Fallicambarus oryktes), the rare grassland birds Bachman’s sparrow (Aimophila aestivalis) and Henslow’s sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii).
This preserve is open to public visitation. At this preserve, you can walk along an informative boardwalk that runs through portions of the preserve and view pine-dominated wetland communities, including longleaf pine savanna, longleaf flatwoods, bayhead swamp, and slash pine-pond cypress woodland. You can also see a wide variety of fascinating plants, including carnivorous pitcher plants.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Conservancy selected this site for its location within the flatwoods region of the East Gulf Coastal Plain, the presence of important and unique native communities and rare native species, and its potential to serve as a platform to demonstrate restoration and management of longleaf pine flatwood savanna. It is also part of a larger priority conservation project area for the Conservancy that encompasses over 10,000 acres of private land in the surrounding area.
The longleaf pine flatwoods region of the East Gulf Coastal Plain extends from southeast Louisiana eastward to the Florida panhandle. The historically dominant habitat was a longleaf pine flatwood/savanna complex, in which longleaf pine flatwood forests on low ridges and rises mixed with wet longleaf pine savannas in broad flats and swales, forming a complex mosaic. Only relatively small, highly fragmented examples of this ecosystem remain in the region. Longleaf pine savannas are wet grassland communities with scattered trees and shrubs, maintained by frequent fire. The typically dense, herbaceous groundcover is dominated by grasses, sedges, and a wide variety of wildflowers.
Longleaf pine savannas are among the most diverse and most threatened habitats in North America, with only 1 to 5% of the original acreage estimated to remain. Although relatively large areas of West Gulf Coastal Plain upland longleaf pine forests have been protected, there are virtually no flatwood sites in public ownership or under conservation management. Because continued loss of longleaf pine habitat is greatest in the flatwoods region, conservation efforts are most needed in that area.
Longleaf pine flatwood savannas continue to decline at an alarming rate and are highly vulnerable if current trends continue. Threats include conversion to pastures and other agricultural endeavors, conversion to off-site loblolly or slash pine plantations, clearing for commercial and residential development, alteration of the natural fire regime, and drainage, among others. Longleaf pine savannas and other associated wetland communities are considered important for floodwater retention, groundwater recharge, maintenance of water quality, habitat for a myriad of wildlife species and several rare plant and animal species, and other ecological and human benefits.
What the Conservancy is Doing
The conservation vision for this property is to restore the historic structure, composition, functional processes, and geographic extent of all associated natural communities, with an emphasis on longleaf pine flatwood savanna. We are accomplishing this restoration through application of aggressive restoration practices, including restoration timbering and herbicide treatments to remove off-site trees and brush, use of frequent prescribed fire, plantings of longleaf pine where needed, and control of non-native invasive species.
On a broader scale, the Conservancy has been partnering with conservation-minded landowners in the near vicinity, who collectively own several thousand acres being restored to native habitats. Our key conservation strategy calls for protection of at least 10,000 acres in this landscape to ensure long-term viability of the savanna habitat and the many associated species it supports.
TNC’s St. Tammany preserves have greatly benefited from volunteers helping with a variety of projects, such as boardwalk construction and longleaf planting.
Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve is one of three units in TNC’s Southeast Louisiana Pine Wetland Mitigation Bank, which also includes Lake Ramsay and Talisheek preserves. Wetland mitigation has been a valuable tool to enable TNC to acquire, restore and manage significant natural areas in St. Tammany Parish.