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Objective-based Vegetation Management

FWC undertakes an alternative approach to natural community management on FWC Wildlife Management Areas

Sandhill Community on Fort White Wildlife and Environmental Area

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has primary management responsibility for approximately 1.4 million acres of the nearly 5.9 million acres within the Wildlife Management Area (WMA/WEAs) system.  FWC land managers and researchers, in cooperation with the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), developed objective-based vegetation management (OBVM) to inform natural community management on the areas for which FWC has primary management responsibility.

OBVM is a monitoring program that measures specific vegetative attributes in native plant communities. Review of the condition of these attributes provides insight about the condition of the natural community. To identify desired future conditions (DFCs), staff worked with FNAI to identify the best existing representative patches of actively managed natural communities. We then had FNAI use the OBVM attribute measurement protocol to collect data at these ‘reference’ sites, and used this data to develop DFCs for each attribute in each actively managed natural community. The data collected using the OBVM protocol can inform managers:

  • if the structural quality of the natural community is changing over time
  • what proportion of the natural community is within DFC, and is management moving more sampling points to within the DFC
  • if the condition of one core vegetative attribute is potentially affecting another attribute
  • if there is a structural layer (groundcover, midstory, overstory) consistently out of DFC that should be targeted for management

While OBVM monitoring occurs every year, FWC schedules OBVM monitoring so monitored areas receive sampling once every five years. FWC has partnered with FNAI to collect OBVM data, and the Florida Wildlife Research institute (FWRI) audits the collected data to verify the accuracy of the data. After FNAI delivers the final data, staff, with FWRI input, analyzes the data and prepares initial reports that include data summaries. Staff provides these initial reports to area managers and administrators, and then conducts meetings to discuss the results of the OBVM monitoring. After these meetings, staff provide final reports that include management implications.

This approach supports science-based land management decisions by setting measurable management objectives for natural communities and collecting data to evaluate progress towards the objectives. The OBVM program collects data that quantifies present natural community conditions on FWC managed lands, provides data interpretation, and facilitates discussion about whether management is having the desired influence on the natural community attributes. The OBVM program provides the data necessary to support adaptive management that managers use to maintain natural communities. Healthy natural communities provide benefits to Florida’s wildlife and people.

Objective-based Vegetation Management Program Goal and Objectives

The goal of the OBVM Vegetation Monitoring program is to provide actionable data to area managers and administrators, enabling informed management of natural communities.  Simply put, we want to provide data that tells us about the current condition of actively managed natural communities and can help inform what management actions are needed. Specific program objectives include:

  1. For each lead area with actively-managed natural communities, provide decision-support data to managers at the natural community level once every 5 years.
  2. Once every 10 years, provide a WMA-wide view of the condition of actively managed natural communities based on OBVM data.