Evaluating the Effects of Cattle Grazing on Public Lands

Upland Habitat scientists currently study the effects of cattle grazing on the vegetation of natural Florida ecosystems to inform management of cattle on state lands.

cattle crazing

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages its lands for multiple-use purposes, including cattle grazing on select Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). It is on these lands that Upland Habitat scientists are studying how cattle grazing affects the vegetation of Florida’s natural lands. They examine grazing effects using paired study areas: one is open and the other is enclosed. This study is conducted in forested wetlands, herbaceous wetlands, mesic flatwoods, scrubby flatwoods and dry prairies of the Caravelle Ranch, Half Moon, Three Lakes and Triple N Ranch WMAs. The factors scientists are studying include total plant cover, plant litter cover (leaves, sticks, plant debris), bare ground, plant height and abundance of individual plant species. Information from this research will help biologists manage cattle on state lands in a beneficial and sustainable manner.

To date, scientists have observed no negative effects to natural lands, which is probably because cattle are stocked at one-half the rate recommended for each WMA by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. However, some localized impacts do occur, generally near salt blocks, molasses troughs, or other areas where cattle gather. Fortunately, these unwanted effects can be mitigated by periodically relocating these types of stations.

Reference: Guide to the Natural Communities of Florida 2010 EditionAdobe PDF

Cattle grazing project transect, caption below
Data collection plot set to analyze total plant cover, litter cover, bare ground,
plant height and abundance of individual plant species.

biologists analyze plant species, caption below

Upland Habitat Biologists analyze plant species in a floodplain forest at Half
Moon WMA to better understand the effects of cattle grazing on state lands.


Map of Triple N Ranch WMA

Map of Three Lakes WMA

Half Moon WMA

Map of Caravelle Ranch WMA

FWC Facts:
Within 24 hours of hatching, young whooping cranes can follow their parents away from the nest. Together, they forage for plants, insects, snakes, frogs and small animals.

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