Archived: July 29, 2004


Introduction

The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is located on the east central Florida coast and is home to NASA's shuttle launch system. Situated in the central portion of Merritt Island, KSC is surround by the Indian River to the west, Mosquito Lagoon to the north, and the Banana River to the Southeast. Southeast of Merritt Island is Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. West of the Indian River are the towns of Titusville and Cocoa. Visible in the shuttle photography is the KSC runway which runs NW to SE. Prior to landing, the space shuttle approaches the 15,000 ft. runway from the northwest at a speed of 215 miles per hour.
KSC is located in a transition zone between the warm temperate Carolinian Zoogeographic Province to the north and the subtropical Caribbean Zoogeographic Province to the south. This climatic region helps to explain the unique ecosystem that exists on Merritt Island. KSC is home to over 100 threatened and endangered species of flora and fauna including the Southern Bald Eagle, Eastern Indigo snake, West Indian Manatee, and the Florida Scrub Jay.


Vegetation

The terrestial vegetation of KSC consists of both upland and wetland communities. Uplands are comprised of slash pine flatwoods, oak scrub, cabbage palm hammocks, and saw palmetto scrub, and broadleaved woodlands. The wetlands consist of salt- ,brackish- , and fresh water marshes.

During the fifties, many of the marshes on Merritt Island were impounded with earthen dikes in an effort to control the salt marsh mosquito population. As a result, many of the tidal marsh systems were disturbed causing an increase in brackish marshes being invaded by non-pristine species such as cattail and willow. With this nearly continuous flooding, conditions are not suitable for many wading birds which call KSC home. Currently the marshes are undergoing a remediation processes where culverts are being installed into some of the earthen dikes. These culverts, when open, will allow the inflow of water from the Indian River estuary system. It is thought that the inflow of salt water will help to restore the salt marsh to their original state.

Estuarine Systems

The Indian River estuary system is comprised of three interconnected water bodies of the Mosquito Lagoon, the Indian River, and the Banana River and comprise 38% of the Kennedy Space Center. The lagoonal system has depths averaging 1.5m with larger depths restricted to dredged shipping lanes. There are no open inlets from the Atlantic Ocean near KSC so tidal effects are not influential. Scientists at KSC are studying the water quality and its impacts to the submerged vegetation and animal life they support. Water monitoring stations were placed at Mosquito lagoon and the Banana River to monitor the water quality over time.

Soils

The soils at KSC/Cape Canaveral Complex are all not the same age. The soils located on Cape Canaveral, false cape, and the barrier island on the eastern edge of Mosquito lagoon are younger than those soils found on Merritt Island. Differences in soil material and in topography can have a dramatic impact on the vegetation which that soil can support.

Fire Management

A natural part of the environment found in Florida is fires. Many plant communities have evolved to depend upon fire for their continued existance. Land management practices use prescribed burning to maintain the benfits of fire to the natural vegetation. If not controlled by burns, mach of the plant communities become quickly overgrown and no longer are considered suitable habitat for the many species of animals.


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