Ranch Wetland Experiment

Understanding how management decisions affect wetland conservation value and wetland functions that benefit society.

Florida’ s extensive ranchlands are heavily dotted with small wetlands. Despite their small size, wetlands provide big benefits. Because wetlands are so important for conservation and for multiple services to society, research is needed to understand how ranchland management affects wetlands. At Buck Island Ranch, we have maintained one of the longest running, and largest wetland experiments. Wetlands in the experiment are embedded in either improved pastures or semi-native pastures. Researchers established 40 wetlands as a giant experiment, 10 wetlands each with grazing, fire, neither, or both.

Major Findings & Impact

Our study suggests that grazing levels applied in semi-native pastures maintained high plant diversity and prevented tree and shrub encroachment. In the absence of grazing, prescribed fire is crucial to maintaining species diversity. Fenced wetlands had greater quantity of palatable species, especially when exposed to prescribed fire. To decrease unpalatable biomass in grazed wetlands within improved pastures, our research suggests that rotational grazing with adequate rest periods are required. This ranch wetland experiment has provided science-based information for grazing in wetland restoration easements. We found that grazing is compatible with wetland restoration goals. It is likely that without the ability to graze, few ranchers would be interested in getting easements on their land.

Project Details

More about this project

Data and Analysis Types

Plant composition and diversity, Plant traits, Forage production and quality, Soil carbon and nutrients, Methane emissions, Water quality, Aquatic invertebrates, Aquatic herpetofauna

Primary Location(s)

Buck Island Ranch

Years Active

2006 - Present

Ranch Wetland Experiment
Ranch wetland experiment
Ranch Wetland Experiment

Featured Publications

Ranch Wetland Experiment

University of Florida
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Florida Cattlemen's Association