Archbold Biological Station
MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center
Biennial Report 1995-1996
P.O. Box 2057 Lake Placid, Florida 33862 USA
Phone: 863-699-0242 FAX: 863-6992217
back to biennial 1995 home page
Constructed 8 50-acre and 8 80-acre experimental pastures as independent hydrologic units.
Sponsored over 30 research projects.
Established new administrative/research offices and a meeting room in the Ranch headquarters.
Developed an educational outreach program for the agricultural and environmental communities.
Developed a five-year management plan for the Ranch cattle and citrus operations.
Developed a collaborative research program for the Kissimmee River floodplain and Lake Okeechobee.
MAERC Director: G. Thomas Bancroft
The prairies and flatwoods of central Florida support a special assemblage of animals and plants, some of which live nowhere else in Florida. Many of these species, and the habitats they need, are most abundant on the ranchlands of the area. Maintaining these assemblages will require the development of environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural practices. The mission of MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center (MAERC) is to conduct and stimulate long-term research on the relationship among cattle ranching, citrus production, and the native ecological systems of central and south Florida.
Ranch Operations. An essential component for fulfilling the mission of MAERC is the Buck Island Ranch. This 10,300-acre ranch includes a 160-acre citrus grove, 4,500 acres of planted pastures, and 5,640 acres of native range. Evaluation of management practices that are both environmentally and economically sustainable requires that we maintain the Ranch at full production levels and as a typical commercial cattle and citrus operation. During 199596 we evaluated Ranch management plans for both citrus and cattle, making adjustments to better match recommended procedures. In the citrus grove, we adjusted maintenance schedules and fertilization regimes and improved drainage. For the cattle operation, we evaluated the number of breeding females the Ranch can support, the quality of heifers retained for replacements, quality and breed of bulls purchased or raised for breeding, the herd's health program, the nutritional balance of females during winter, and pasture quality. We adjusted many of these operations to bring them closer to industry standards, to improve our production, and to provide a standard infrastructure for our research activities.
Research Program. MAERC solidified its position as a leading agro-ecology research institution dedicated to understanding the relationship between environmental and agricultural issues by building a multi-disciplinary collaboration with University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), U. S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Florida Cattlemen's Association (FCA) to oversee and coordinate research at MAERC. This group meets several times a year to review the status and progress of projects, develop new projects, and seek research funding.
Multi-disciplinary Approach to Sustainable Agriculture. Water quality remains a major environmental issue in central Florida. Developing agricultural practices that improve water quality while protecting other environmental values and the economic viability of citrus and beef cattle operations will require high-quality data on the implications of alternative management practices. At MAERC we developed a multi-disciplinary approach to address these issues. During 199596 we constructed a set of 16 experimental pastures at the Ranch. These will test the effects of alternative management practices; on the quality of surface and ground water, on populations of native plants and animals, and on the economic viability of cow/calf operations. IFAS and MAERC began a monitoring program to provide baseline information on key plant and animal species in the experimental pastures. Quality of surface water leaving five different land-use types at the Ranch is monitored to provide baseline information on how different land-uses and landscapes affect water quality. A comprehensive study of alternative nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation practices on groundwater quality in central Florida citrus groves is underway. A Geographic Information System under development will aid in the integration and synthesis of all research and planning projects at the Ranch. We are developing an economic database for the cow/calf operation at Buck Island Ranch to evaluate the influence of alternative management practices on production and financial variables. A synthesis of information from these projects offers key data for realizing economically as well as environmentally viable ranches in central Florida.
Wildlife Research. Wildlife is an important and valuable component of central Florida's ranch ecosystems. To demonstrate the importance of ranches for native biodiversity, we started a comparative project on the nesting and feeding ecology of red-shouldered hawks and barred owls and we continued our study of wading-bird use of drainage ditches. To understand the consequences of alternative land-uses and management practices we began a comprehensive study of wintering- and breeding-bird populations in various Ranch habitats by using a series of point counts spread across three major habitats and a dozen sub-habitats within these habitats. Kim Babbitt (Univ. of Florida) finished her dissertation research on how frogs and wetland invertebrates, which are the base of most wildlife food chains on ranches, use seasonal wetlands. Joan Morrison (Univ. of Florida) continued her dissertation studies on the ecology of the crested caracara, a threatened species. This flagship species is an outstanding example of how cattle ranches provide habitat for native species.
System-wide Collaboration. Protection and restoration of natural areas is a major conservation issue in Florida. MAERC scientists and collaborators played a significant role in this effort by serving on numerous committees and working closely with policy makers. With contracts from SFWMD, we hired staff to develop three collaborative research projects with District scientists. David Anderson is examining the dynamics of invertebrate populations in the pre-restoration floodplain of the Kissimmee River. Bruce Dugger is studying waterfowl populations in the pre-restoration floodplain of the Kissimmee River. Soon-Jin Hwang is examining the cycling of phosphorus between benthic, pelagic, and littoral zone plants and algae in Lake Okeechobee.
Educational Outreach. Communicating research findings to ranchers, environmentalists, policy makers, regulators, and the general public is critical to the success of MAERC. MAERC staff and collaborators made numerous presentations to groups across the state. During 1995-96, more than three dozen agricultural, environmental, and educational groups toured the Ranch. John Capece and Pirouz Mozzifari (IFAS) have developed a Web site <http://www.agen.ufl.edu/~maerc> to present information on MAERC research. MAERC staff interact with local youth groups, such as Future Farmers of America and 4-H, through livestock judging competitions and practice sessions, 4-H camp, and the county livestock show.
Lohrer, F.E. (Editor). 1998.
Archbold Biological Station, Biennial Report 1995-1996. Archbold Biological Station, Lake
Placid. 62 pp.
© Archbold Biological Station, 1998 October, links revised 18 March 1999.
Webmaster: Fred Lohrer.