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Florida Everglades

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The Florida Everglades is the name of the area that consists of subtropical wetlands on the southern tip of Florida. At one point, it extended from Lake Okeechobee 100 miles south to Florida Bay. Now, however, it is only 1/3 of its glory, since the Everglades National Park (what is left of the Everglades) only currently covers 1,509,000 acres at the southern tip of Florida.

The two biggest abiotic components that are unique to the Everglades are weather and location. The weather plays a huge part because of the precipitation The weather is known to be warm, with a distinct wet and dry season. Despite having some dry periods, the area is known to have 40-70 inches of rain and that rainfall is what drains into Lake Okeechobee. Location is important because it is what determines the flow of water. Southern Florida is very flat and because the terrain is so flat, the rainwater that overflows from Lake Okeechobee during the rains is what creates a wide, shallow, slow-moving river that flows through the marshes.

The ecosystems that make up the Everglades have been described as “both fragile and resilient” (Toops). Take for example, the Florida apple snail, which are an amphibious fresh water mollusk (Whitney). Apple snails must lay their eggs on sawgrass stalks around six inches above the water line because they are intolerant of being submerged for long periods of time. In that case, when the eggs hatch, this allows the young snails to enter the water quickly. If water levels are too low or rise too quickly, apple snails do not flourish. Because they are the primary food source for many animals in the area, if they don't survive, that negatively impacts the ecosystem.

Another important biotic component that is known to the area is the sawgrass (Whitney). The sawgrass dominates the Everglades since it grows in strands or in between channels of water. This plant growth extents from Lake Okeechobee to the Bay. Generally, where sawgrass grows densely, few animals or other plants thrive. However, alligators make their nests in it, apple snails lay their eggs in it, and due to the climate and water height, algae thrive in it.

There has been evidence of people living in the Everglades for the past few hundreds of years. However, it wasn't until recently that we have adversely impacted the ecosystem. When we drained areas to create urban areas in South Florida, we drained large areas of land as a result. Unfortunately, the drainage plans were conducted without a full understanding of the intricacies of the Everglade ecosystems and shaping processes that made it up (Light).

We have also inadvertently introduced invasive species, which ended up competing with or preying on the natural animals of the fragile ecosystem. At one point, the Everglades was known for being abundant in bird life, but that has since declined. Another animal, the Florida panther, is on the verge of extinction. On top of that, there are sixteen endangered and six threatened wildlife species, and merely having the physical boundaries of a National Park is no guarantee for a species' survival.

Despite that depressing decline there is hope. On May 30, 1934, an Act was passed authorizing a park to be formed. Thirteen years later a vast wetland was dedicated as a national park to keep the fragile in attempt to keep the fragile ecosystem away from the interference of human development. As a result, the Everglades was the first national park preserved primarily for for its uniqueness, rather than for scenic or historic values (Uhler).

The National Park itself is a good first step in preserving the fragile Everglades. It may only be 1/3 of the area it used to be, but the park itself has expanded from what it originally started at since Congress has extended the park boundaries bit by bit. In addition to that, the National Park and the State of Florida have agreed to be partners in enforcing water quality regulations on top of addressing water quality problems. Lastly, the Park Service is working with other water management to better create natural rainfall models as to manipulate water supplies to help restore the balance of the Everglades.

Light, Stephen, Dineed, J. Walter, "Water Control in the Everglades: A Historical Perspective", in Everglades: The Ecosystem and its Restoration, Steven Davis and John Ogden, eds. (1994), Delray Beach, Fla.: St. Lucie Press.
Toops, Connie (1998). The Florida Everglades. Voyageur Press.
Uhler, John William. http://www.everglades.national-park.com/info.htm. Retrieved 22 Feb 2014.
Whitney, Ellie et al., eds. (2004) Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species. Pineapple Press, Inc.…...

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