Florida is widely recognized as one of North America's most important reservoirs of biological diversity. The state's warm climate, ample rainfall, geologic history of multiple sea level fluctuations, diversity of habitats, and close proximity to the tropics create a unique environment that harbors myriad biological rarities.
Nearly 700 vertebrate species and 4,000 plant species are found in Florida. At least 17% of Florida's vertebrates, 410 invertebrates and about 300 plant species are thought to be endemic. This means that they are found nowhere else in the world, which conveys a weighty responsibility: our conservation and management activities are of global importance in efforts to conserve the diversity of life on Earth.
In 1991, plant communities in Alachua County included approximately 150,000 acres of pinelands, 108,000 acres of grassland, 93,000 acres of swamp, marsh and open water, 72,000 acres of hardwood hammocks and forests, and 7,000 acres of sandhill. Unfortunately, Alachua County has lost much of its natural habitat to urban, agricultural and industrial development, both before 1991 and in the decade since.