Water & Air ecologists characterized the ecological communities of a 2,400-acre cattle ranch in Okeechobee County, Florida. This work provided information to engineers developing a wetlands restoration plan for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). WRP is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The cumulative ecological benefits of these restored wetlands reach well beyond their boundaries by improving watershed health, increasing the sustainability of agricultural lands, and enhancing wildlife habitat.
- Mapped vegetation communities.
- Created exotic and invasive plant species maps.
- Documented endangered and threatened species.
- Characterized the quality and mapped the location of existing wetlands.
- Determined seasonal high water levels.
Existing seasonal high water level data were provided to engineers for input to hydrologic models which were used to develop the restoration plan. The outputs from these models, helped divide the property into five habitat types based on predicted post-restoration ecological communities. Water & Air also provided recommendations for the control and removal of invasive/exotic plants and assessed proposed restoration impacts to protected wildlife species using the property. The ecological information collected was used to develop a site-specific restoration plan which consisted of strategically placed ditch blocks to restore wetlands degraded by site and regional agricultural use.