Land Management

Preserving and Restoring Biodiversity

Archbold Biological Station has the great privilege and responsibility of managing 8,600 acres of land in south-central Florida. The 5,000-acre Station property is preserved as a matrix of pristine native habitats, including oak and rosemary scrubs, sandhills, pine flatwoods, cutthroat seeps and seasonal wetlands. The adjacent 3,600-acre Reserve property contains both natural areas and extensive cattle pastures. Habitat management practices are dictated by both research and conservation priorities. The Station also manages the 10,300-acre Buck Island Ranch, site of the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center.

Lightning fires were prevalent throughout the region in presettlement times, creating habitats that are pyrogenic and require frequent, patchy fires to maintain biodiversity. Therefore, fire management is a key component of both research and land management at Archbold. The Station's fire management plan strives to balance the responsibility of maintaining the Station's biodiversity with the needs of research. Many prescribed fires are conducted on the Station and the Reserve every year. In addition to prescribed fires, wildfires caused by lightning and by accidental ignition are frequent. Railroad ignited fires are a common event, often small and easily controlled, but sometimes burning extensive areas. A railroad-ignited fire in 2001 burned over 700 acres, the largest fire in the Station’s 79-year fire history.

All fires are mapped in detail and these maps are digitized into the GIS. A detailed 40-year GIS fire history database, plus ample opportunity to prescribe and conduct research burns, provides one of the finest research sites for fire ecologists anywhere in the United States. Prescribed burning is used to test hypotheses about responses of native elements or systems to different fire regimes.

Land Management at Archbold also focuses on invasive, exotic species that threaten Florida ecosystems. The primary focus is on invasive plants. Plants from around the world can flourish in southern Florida’s sub-tropical climate. Unfortunate introductions of these plants, whether purposeful or accidental, have led to thousands of acres of infestations across the state. On Station properties, non-native plants are limited primarily to disturbed areas. The Station has an Exotics Treatment and Monitoring Plan. Non-native plants are treated through mechanical means and with herbicides. Many species require more than one treatment to eliminate individual populations. In addition to plants, non-native animals (including wild hogs and feral cats) are excluded from the property to the greatest extent possible.

The land management program works hand in hand with the restoration program. The acquisition of The Reserve property in 2002 provided Archbold staff with the opportunity to research ways to restore native habitats and to begin the process of returning the land to a more native state. Land management activities such as prescribed fire and invasive species control are a necessary part of the restoration process. In addition to the work on The Reserve, several small tracts of land that were once orange groves are in the process of restoration back to native scrub habitat.

In addition to the main property, the Station also own three nearby satellite tracts. The Malcolm and Jeanne Watters Marsh is a 17-acre (6.9-ha) tract between Lake June and Lake Henry. The Harris Tract is an 8-acre (3.2-ha) shrub marsh on Lake Istokpoga, one of the largest lakes in the state. The Henry T. and Helen C. Price Memorial Tract contains 8 acres (3.2-ha) of scrub, hammock, swamp, and marsh habitat on the north shore of Lake Placid. These small tracts provide research opportunities in many habitats not represented on the Station's main property or on the Ranch.

Land Management Policies. All property is fenced and posted. Pets are not permitted on the property. Relocation of native organisms onto the property is not permitted. Firelanes and roads provide access to the property and are also used for fire control. Research programs are coordinated to minimize their effects on one another or on populations of threatened or endangered native species. Certain scientific collecting and experimentation may be permitted after consultation with staff Research Biologists.

The Land Management program is responsible for:

  • all aspects of fire management, including planning, prescribed burning, wildfire control, and post-fire mapping of all fires onto GIS
  • removal of invasive, exotic species
  • working with staff and visiting scientists to meet research needs for fire, exotics, and restoratio
  • collecting monitoring data on: weather, Lake Annie, seasonal wetland depths, groundwater depths, photopoints, and live fuel moisture

Land Management Internships at ABS


Lighting a prescribed fire near the main buildings to protect them from potential wildfires. Photo by Mike Mazzeo. © Archbold Biological Station, 2005.
Conducting a research burn on the Reserve. Photo by April Hansgate. © Archbold Biological Station, 2006.
Post fire aerial of burn unit 41C. Photo by Roberta Pickert. © Archbold Biological Station, 2008.
Fire intensity map for burn unit 41C. Prepared by Kevin Main. © Archbold Biological Station, 2010.