Biological interrelationships among life forms in the area
Species depend on one another for food, etc.
Human intrusions threatening the area
Protections that exist to safeguard and preserve the area
What individuals can do to help protect the Everglades
A. Visit the Everglades
B. Learn ways to conserve the environment
C. Volunteer your time (if local)
D. Adopt a restoration project
E. Get involved in related elections
The Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is a large area of subtropical wetlands that comprises a large portion of southern Florida. Comprised of a variety of different habitats and ecosystems, many different plant and animal species found in the Everglades are considered exotic or endangered. The various habitats and ecosystems within the Everglades are interconnected, many species depending on the existence of others for survival. It is the diversity of the habitats contained within the Florida Everglades that makes it such a commodity, and that makes its protection even more critical of an issue. Unfortunately, human intrusions and interference do threaten the stability of the Everglades National Park, and without continued conservation efforts, the habitats within the Everglades may soon be at risk for extinction.
The Hardwood Hammock, often referred to as The Tree Island, is one of several habitats within the Everglades. This area consists of small wooded areas consisting of trees and bushes that have adapted over time to living in such a moist environment. This habitat is home to many different birds and mammals native to the Everglades. Various species of herons, egrets and other wading birds call the hardwood hammocks home, as well as mammals native to the area, including the Florida Panther.
Cypresses may one of the most prevalent and well-recognized trees in the area. There are two types of cypress trees in the Everglades: the dwarf cypress and the bald cypress (Everglades Plan, para. 6). It is also home to various species of foxes, snakes, turtles and tree frogs, as well (Miami Science Museum).
The Mangroves is another one of the many ecosystems found in the Everglades National Park. Similar to the hardwood hammock, the mangroves are small forests of salt-tolerant trees and shrubs found in the coastal channels and rivers in the southernmost portion of the Everglades (National Parks Service, para. 1). Mangroves are also home to many of the species of wading birds found in the Everglades, including the osprey and roseate spoonbills. American crocodiles also call the mangroves home, as well as the green sea turtle and the small species of deer called the Key deer (Miami Science Museum).
The pinelands, also referred to as the pine rocklands, is an area of forest in which trees have taken root in the exposed limestone floor in the area.. This area is unique because of the diversity of plants and animals that can only be found in this area. The pinelands are home to a variety of snakes, including the diamondback rattlesnake, the coral snake and the king snake. It is also home to the Florida panther and the black bear (Miami Science Museum).
The sawgrass area is one of the most well-known of the habitats contained in the Everglades. The sawgrass is home to a variety of wading birds, turkey vultures, bald eagles, and even unique insects like the zebra butterfly and the apple snail (Miami Science Museum).
The freshwater slough is another important ecosystem found within the Florida Everglades. The National Park Service defines the slough as "a low-lying area of land that channels water through the Everglades." (National Park Service, para. 1). This is a marshy area of the Everglades, and they are flooded year-round with a slow-moving current. Due to its watery, slow-moving conditions the slough is home to a variety of species, including the snapping turtle, the wood duck, the Florida otter, the American alligator, and the water moccasin.
It is important to note that although the Everglades is made up of a handful of different ecosystems, it is the diversity of the ecosystems that makes this area so unique and worth saving. There are more than 60 threatened and endangered species of animals found within the Everglades, and there are over 360 species of birds alone in the Everglades. Each species of animal depends on another for survival, for any of a variety of reasons. Some species rely on others for food, whereas others require other species for population control. The various species and ecosystems found within the Everglades are interconnected and depend on one another for survival.
Despite the diversity and fragility of the Florida Everglades National Park, there are still human intrusions that threaten the area. These intrusions must be controlled in order to preserve the natural beauty of the Everglades and prevent any further damage to the fragile ecosystems contained within it.
Human development is one of the biggest threats to the Everglades National Park. Human development contributes to the pollution of the area, as well. It also contributes to introduced species, which can throw off the balance of the delicate ecosystems in the Everglades. During the late 1800s, the fertility and beauty of the land in and near the Everglades invited a flood of human construction. This construction displaced many plant and animal habitats, polluted the area and introduced species as seemingly harmless as domesticated cats and dogs to the area. While domesticated pets like cats and dogs may seem harmless, they throw off the natural balance maintained within the various ecosystems and can contribute to the death or scarcity of certain species of plants and animals.
Restoring the Florida Everglades to their original quality requires a combination of formal restoration efforts as well as scientific efforts in this area. According to the Florida State Department, advances in scientific research have allowed for the development of technology that will return a more natural flow of water to the 2.4 million acres of marsh in the area.
In addition, varied techniques for farmers in south Florida have helped to prevent polluting byproducts like phosphorus from entering the Everglades and causing further damage to the ecosystems within it. Also, the man-made construction of various wetlands designed to replace those destroyed by human interference has made a difference. Totaling over more than 50,000 acres of man-made marshes, these new additions have helped restore some of the habitat for the dozens of threatened or endangered species in the Florida Everglades.
Formal restoration programs are also in place and continuously being developed to help save the Everglades, but there is always a need for more. The Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program, or NEEPP, was passed by the Florida State Legislature in 2007. The objective of this protection program is to expand and protect existing watersheds and estuaries found within the Florida Everglades to the north, as well as the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Watersheds.
Acceler8 is another restoration program designed to help save the Everglades. This program helps to finance the projects of others. To date, it has financed more than $540 million dollars for other restoration projects designed to help save the ecosystems within The Everglades (Florida Department of Environmental Protection).
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, is a 50/50 partnership between the federal and state governments. It has provided more than $10 billion in restoration to 16 counties in or near the Everglades, comprising more than 18,000 square miles (Florida Department of Environmental Protection).