Rangelands in Florida are land with native vegetation that have adapted to Florida’s conditions and during the winter months these rangelands are grazed by livestock.
Florida is home to 350 native grass species, but no native grasses are used in planted pasture. Planted pasture are forages that have been introduced from another location. These native grasses are unproductive because of Florida’s infertile soil that is acidic and poorly drained. The native grasses have evolved in Florida’s harsh conditions competing against other plants. Native grasses have not been improved by breeding to be adapted to more productive environments. Rangelands are not fertilized and there is open spaces between grasses and other competitive plants in the growing area. Some of Florida native grasses are spread by vegetative reproduction and can be found in clumps in localized areas. Maidencane is an example of a native grass that is found in clumps. Other native grasses that are more widely distributed is spread by seed throughout the landscape. The seed can be distributed by wildlife, livestock, or by wind. Applying fertilizer and lime to rangelands will help increase the soil pH, soil fertility, and short term productivity of native grasses. Improving soil fertility and pH will also set the rangeland up for invasion by other grass species. Maidencane is a native grass that is nutritious and productive in the summer months. Most native grasses are important in livestock production system for winter grazing. Maidencane will lose its nutritional value after a frost so it is recommended for summer grazing. Rangelands play and important role in the ecosystem. An ecosystem service is a service of an ecosystem provided to society. Native grassland ecosystems offer a wealth of benefits including taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in the soil. This will held decrease the carbon dioxide and impacts of climate change. Florida grasslands also are a water purification system. The grasslands capture and filter the rainwater through the soil removing any impurities before reaching the aquifer. Both native grasslands and planted pastures provide a home for many wildlife species here in Florida.
Native grasslands are important for winter grazing in livestock operations. Rangelands provide many benefits and ecosystem services.