A dying habitat? The Everglades

We drove to the Florida Everglades today. We hoped we might see a distant alligator. We actually saw hundreds…. well at least fifty very close-up!

Alligator Everglades

A large alligator snoozing in the winter sunshine

The Everglades National Park in South Florida is an amazing place of over 1.5 million acres.

Historically it was a freshwater river just a few feet deep and 50 miles wide which crept slowly towards the sea. Dropping only fifteen feet during it’s 80 mile course this “river of grass” finally emptied into the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico where salt and fresh water mixed together and the habitat was dominated by mangrove forests.

Everglades Red Shouldered Hawk

The “river of grass” with a red-shouldered hawk perched in the foreground

Unfortunately this fragile place is being (and has been) destroyed on a massive scale – by humans. The park was the first created to protect a “threatened ecological system” but it could still die.

It has no natural sources of water and relies totally on the rain that falls in southern Florida – outside of the park boundaries. However, this same water is now diverted into extensive canal and levee systems (for agriculture and human consumption) before it can even reach the park. At times it receives no water, at other times human-managed flood waters inundate the park – washing away young birds and nests.

Alligator

Basking alligators near a rapidly drying freshwater pool

To add to this there is poisonous run-off from agriculture outside of the park. High levels of mercury are present from fish, through raccoons and alligators, to the rare Florida panther of which only 10 are thought to survive.

Now, after years of drainage and destruction, Congress has authorized the world’s largest environmental restoration project due to take 30 years to complete. The aim is to restore what is left of the Everglades but it’s an uphill battle against massive multi-national agricultural and industrial companies and human demands on the land and water.

Everglades Airplants

Airplants cover the trees – living off thin-air and rainwater

From what I can see the fate of the Everglades is still very much in the balance.

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11 thoughts on “A dying habitat? The Everglades

  1. Thanks for all that very interesting info Jane.
    Seems like a sad, similar story world-over sometimes eh?
    On a positive note – I LOVE that Red-shouldered hawk!
    Great stuff. Again!

    Doug

  2. I’m only just catching up with your various posts, Jane – fabulous, sad and interesting. Thank you. It looks hot too…

    Hope you’re having a glorious holiday. Will you be celebrating your wedding ‘anniversary’ on the 14th?!

  3. Doug. Yes, it is sad but very familiar! Our Dorset Heathland at home is slowly disappearing due to the pressures of housing. However, I did get some “close up” footage of the red shouldered hawk… so hope to put that on the blog once I’m home. Also should be getting high speed internet in the next couple of days, which will help! Jane

  4. Paula. Yes, it’s all those things… not too hot today as there’s a cold front going through (rain, wind, thunder…) but should brighten up in a days time. No anniversary on the 14th…(25th) but I’m looking forward to spending it in the sunshine. Hope being home hasn’t been too awful for you and that the weather isn’t too bad and the animals are behaving themselves! Jane

  5. Only just catching up – I was horrified to discover how far behind I’d got!

    Oh dear, I didn’t know about the risk to the Everglades. Too many TV programmes in earlier days have left me convinced that “Florida” and “Everglades” are almost the same thing. I do hope the rescue measured work.

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