The rich biodiversity of central Alabama is the result of many complex and inter-related factors. As each kind of habitat supports a characteristic flora and fauna, a mosaic of different habitats as found in parts of Turkey Creek could contribute to more unique discoveries. In the case of Turkey Creek, biodiversity is expressed in the 3 unique darter fish. The conditions that allow these rare beauties refuge may also open other niches for other animals as well as plants. Unique water quality and geology could also allow others to be found. TCNP and the State Lands Division carefully survey the property for unique plant of animal species and protect the area from disturbance.
The ingredients for biodiversity in the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve started with slow collision rocks of resistant limestone and shale with the Pottsville Formation of the Warrior Coal Field.
Add the variety of soils produced from weathering of these rocks. Add a pinch of cool spring and ground water. Mix well and you get a huge variety of plants and animals. Across the tops of the ridges tree species change with the soils – Longleaf Pine, to lime-loving Eastern Red Cedar. All told, four different types of woodlands are represented: Southeastern Interior Longleaf Pine Woodland, Allegheny-Cumberland Dry Oak Forest and Woodland, Cumberland Seepage Forest, and South Central Interior Small Stream and Riparian Forest.
Cool groundwater mixes with spring water to flow over riffles and pools created by the exposed bed rock in the creek. Before Turkey Creek was a Nature Preserve, a group of biologists discovered in the Turkey Creek Watershed the only known population of the Vermilion. More investigations revealed two other small darters that are only found within Jefferson County. These two darters, the Rush Darter and the Watercress Darter, reside in the watershed upstream from the Preserve in quieter waters. All three of the fish populations were very small. The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Vermilion Darter an endangered species and wrote a Critical Habitat plan to increase the numbers. Other Critical Habitat plans are under review for the Rush and Watercress Darter. Removing dams in the creek provides more habitat and keeping the water free from sediment keeps those habitats healthy.
-R. Scot Duncan