Although Florida is a rapidly urbanizing state, just under half of its land is in some sort of forest cover. Overall, forests account for almost 17 million acres. This varies regionally with as much as 75% of the panhandle and only 27% of central Florida supporting some sort of forest cover. About a third of the forest area is managed in pine plantations, but much, particularly our wetland forests, remains in a more natural condition. While the vast majority of the land has been altered in some way by human activity, today’s forests serve vital ecological functions. Particularly on our public lands, managers work to enhance those functions and restore the forest to a condition that approaches its historic natural community.
The Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) defines a natural community as a distinct and recurring assemblage of populations of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms naturally associated with each other and their physical environment. Their current classification identifies a total of 81 communities, about half of which may be considered as forest communities or types. They may be broadly grouped as follows:
- Hardwood Forested Uplands (including Sinkholes)
- High Pine and Scrub
- Pine Flatwoods
- Coastal Uplands
- Forested Wetlands
The descriptions of individual communities are derived from FNAI’s Guide to the Natural Communities of Florida, 2010 edition. Where provided, the VR panoramas depict typical examples from within the range of conditions found in Florida. Panoramas for outstanding examples known as “reference” communities will be added and so noted as they become available.