AgroEcology Research Overview

Over the last 25 years, Buck Island Ranch, has developed an interdisciplinary long-term agro-ecosystem research program, focused on the complex functioning of grazing lands within the Northern Everglades, informing what is required to maintain this landscape as environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Our working cattle ranch serves as a research platform to employ the methods and insights of multiple disciplines, taking observational, experimental and modeling approaches to collect, analyze, and synthesize long-term data. Ultimately, our research seeks to understand how we can manage this agroecosystem to provide an array of ecosystem services, including biodiversity.

A conceptual model of the management system provides a framework for integrating research. Major external factors (solid green) and internal transfers among physical/biological systems (black) drive three ecosystem services of public significance (red).

Within this framework, our research is currently focused on the following areas:

  1. Synergistic effects of fire and grazing on wetland ecosystems
  2. Long-term ecological responses to season of fire and nutrient addition in semi-native grasslands
  3. Assessing the effectiveness of wetland restoration on cattle ranches

Currently, we have large collaborative projects on:

  1. Source or sink? Greenhouse gas balance on Florida ranchlands (w/ Carl Bernacchi, Nuria Gomez-Casanova, Evan DeLucia, University of Illinois/USDA-ARS , and Jed Sparks, Cornell University)
  2. Evaluating trade-offs in ecosystem services in a payment for water services program in the Northern Everglades (w/Patrick Bohlen, Dave Jenkins, John Fauth, Pedro Quintana-Ascencio, University of Central Florida, and Sanjay Shukla and Greg Kiker, University of Florida)
    1. Diversity and abundance of several organisms in relation to multiple measures of wetland hydrology across different spatial scales
  3. Environmental Impacts of feral swine (w/Sam Wisely and Raoul Boughton, University of Florida)

Our environmental monitoring network provides an array of data from weather stations, groundwater, and surface water across the ranch landscape which provides a strong foundation to answer questions on climate and hydrological drivers. We have an active intern program, and interns are critical to long-term data collection. Interns are exposed to a broad array of experiences, spanning from formulating their own research questions, designing experiments, writing proposals and presenting results in a final oral presentation.