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publications > paper > PP 1011 > ecosystems > man-dominated ecosystems > agricultural systems
Ecosystems of south Florida
Cattle are an important industry on natural grasslands and on improved pasture. Cattle ranching is most extensive in the Eastern and Western Flatlands and the Devils Garden area.
Farming and ranching benefit from the year-round growing season and environmental resources of the area. Usually, however, both require subsidies such as fossil fuel, heavy machinery, fertilizers, and pesticides to maintain high levels of net production (Lugo and others, 1971). An exception is cattle grazing on natural grasslands that, under light grazing pressure, are self-maintaining.
Much farming in south Florida depends on the rich muck land for the production of sugarcane, snap beans, celery, cabbage, sweet corn, and other crops. However, oxidation is progressively removing this important rich organic soil. An elevated water table precludes oxidation, but it also precludes agriculture as practiced today (Lugo and others, 1971).
As water levels are manipulated for agricultural development, muck is alternately covered by water and exposed to the air. During low-water periods of drying, oxidation of the muck occurs and the probability of fire increases. These processes result in muck loss and the release of nutrients to the irrigation ditches surrounding the area. Pesticides are also washed from the system and may cause biological damage elsewhere (Lugo and others, 1971).
Agricultural systems of south Florida are threatened by environmental and economic factors. Forced abandonment of farms is predicted in the intensively farmed muck land because of soil subsidence. Other farms will be abandoned because of expanding urbanization that increases land taxes or will be sold for urban and residential development as land costs increase (Alexander and Crook, 1973).
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM (KP)
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