Florida ranches are commonly a mixture of improved pasture, semi-native pastures and native rangelands including pockets of woodlands/hammocks and numerous seasonal wetlands. Threats to Florida rangelands are many, including; conversion to other uses (intensive agricultural practices, urbanization); reduced connectivity through fragmentation of the landscape; intrusion, establishment and persistence of invasive species (animals and plants); altered disturbances, especially fire upon and drainage upon the land leading to alternative communities and succession to more woody habitats. As human pressure for space and food continues conversion of rangeland to other uses increases, and how rangelands are managed influenced. The sustainable rangeland ecosystem program asks “What are the best ways to integrate grazing habitat management in rangelands so that ecosystem services are maintained indefinitely and ecosystem “stressors” are minimized?” These services include forage for cattle, habitat for wildlife and game, balanced soil nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration for global climate mitigation, maintenance of cultural heritage, and water capture, storage and aquifer recharge.
The program specifically conducts directed research and extension into rangeland habitat management techniques, wildlife demography and disease, cattle health and resource availability on rangelands, historic and current status of rangelands in Florida, their connectivity and restoration. The core focus of the program is promoting the conservation, maintenance and improvement of rangelands for diverse ecosystem functions, with special attention to wildlife.