Description of Areas of Ecological Interest:
#1: Northwest Florida, southwest Georgia, south Alabama & southeast Mississippi:
Northwest Florida and adjacent GA, AL & MS contains the highest biodiversity overall of the four areas. This area has already been addressed extensively through NWFLEC and its websites (www.nwflec.com).
#2: Peninsula Florida (Central Florida, through the Everglades & Florida Keys):
Beginning in the Florida Peninsula ecological diversity changes considerably, the further south you go. Moving south, more and more temperate species reach the southern end of their range. For example, in area #1 there are 135-140 or so species of herpetofauna. By the time you reach the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula only about 70 species of native herpetofauna are present.
Other temperate species also decline such as mammals, birds, freshwater fish and plants. However, subtropical, tropical and Caribbean species increase as you go southward, especially plants and birds.
#3: Big Thicket of Texas & Louisiana:
The Big Thicket and Piney Woods area of southeast Texas and adjacent Louisiana is a very interesting area. This area contains a large, disjunct region of the Longleaf Pine ecosystem and is the furthest west this habitat and associated species are found. This region is also where eastern species meet western species in the U.S, but eastern species predominate. Many eastern species also decline and transition into western species in this area. The Big Thicket also contains endemic forms that occur only in this region such as the Louisiana Pine Snake and Tan Racer.
#4: South Texas & the Rio Grande Valley:
This region of the Gulf Coastal Plain is unique in that it contains some eastern species, with a considerable number of western species, along with sub-tropical and tropical species that range northward from Mexico are also found here. Additionally, species only found in the Rio Grande valley occur along the river and in its floodplain. For example, approximately 55 herpetofaunal species from the west and south occur in this region. Several tropical bird species can be found here and migratory birds also over-winter along the Gulf and in the Rio Grande floodplain.
Map #2: Four areas of high biodiversity along the Gulf Coast.