Water resource managment of the Florida Everglades

This discussion topic submitted by Shondricka Burrell (burrelsj@miamiu.miamioh.edu) on 7/17/98.

Shondricka J. Burrell
GLG 599: Tropical Marine Ecology--Florida Keys and San Salvador, Bahamas
Topic: Water resource management of the Florida Everglades, Final

Water is necessary for survival of life on earth as we know it-- in the fullness of its diversity and productivity. The depletion and destruction of water resources leads to the destruction of life. There are many lessons to learn about human management of water resources that are quite humbling, but if heeded will lead to a healthier environment.

The Florida Everglades is an oligotrophic subtropical wetland ecosystem (Davis, 1991) , that prior to extensive drainage projects begun in early 1900s, covered most of southern Florida. The Everglades developed on limestone bedrock ~5,500 years ago and originally encompassed over 10, 000 square kilometers (Davis, 1943) bounded on the north by the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee, the east by the Atlantic Ocean, the south by the latitude of Miami and the west by the Everglades-Big Cypress drainage divide. The Everglades ecompasses the following land types: freshwater marshes, wetland tree islands, cypress heads and domes, tropical hardwood hammocks, pinelands, mangrove swamps, coastal saline flats, tidal creeks and bays, and shallow coastal marine waters (Davis, 1943). The Everglades is part of a larger ecological context called the South Florida Ecosystem which includes the Kissimmee River Valley, Lake Okeechobee, the Big Cypress Swamp, Florida Bay, the Atlantic Coastal Ridge, Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys, and the Florida Reef Tract (Finkl, 1995). These units are connected by wetlands that form the Kissimmee-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades (KLOE) drainage basin (Finkl, 1995).
The Everglades have two common names--îPa hay okeeî given by the Miccosukee Indians meaning grassy water; and ìRiver of Grasssî given by conservationist and author Marjorie Stoneman Douglas.
Water management in the Everglades can be divided into two periods: before canals and after drainage (Brown, 1948).

I. The evolution of federal wetlands policy and water management in the Everglades from European colonization to the present.
- original areal extent of wetlands in the contiguous 48 states
- government persepctives on wetlands, and their inherent value which determined policy with regards to land useage.
-first management schemes began in 1881 with the construction of canals for drainage of the wetlands, the attitude being ìcut and dryî ìditch and drainî
--total extent of canals went from the original 18 km canal built in 1881 to 115 km of levees and 800 km if canals (Blake,
- examples of legislated land useage and incentives for wetland conversion primarily for agricultural purposes
- more recent recognition of the benefits of wetlands and how this
influences present policy
-examples of current regulations on wetland conversion
--definition of a wetland
-- the four categories of wetland and the regulations and restrictions on their uses
- success: initiatives have reduced wetland conversion rate from an estimated 690, 000 acres converted annually from the mid-1950s to the mid 1970s 87% of which were for agricultural purposes to 156, 100 acres annually from 1982- 1992, less than 20% of which were for agricultural purposes. However the new battle is the loss of wetlands to urban development not agriculture. (NRCS, 1992)

II. Impacts of water management schemes over time
-loss of wildlife habitat including wading bird nesting areas
--impact on biodiversity
--impact on reproduction practices of animal species due to loss of transitional habitats used for nesting
- changes in hydroperiods and hydropatterns
--shortened hydroperiods and increased frequency of drying periods
-- unnatural and reduced flow of freshwater
-- unnatural ponding and overdrainage of soils
-- loss of freshwater for human use as well
-- loss of groundwater due to the lowering of water tables

III. Human perspectives in the social realm that effect human interaction in the political, social, economic and environmental realms--reality reveals that there is no isolation or abstraction with regards to human behaviors
- personal responsibility for the environment

Boucher, Norman, 1995. Back to the Everglades. Technology Review: Aug./Sept 95 reproduced at http://www.techreview.com/articles/aug95/Boucher.html

Brown, , A.H., 1948. Haunting Heart of the Everglades. National Geographic, February p.145-173

Davis, J.H., Jr. 1943. The Natural Features of Southern Florida, Especially Vegetation and the Everglades. Florida Geological Survey Bulletin, No.25

Davis, Steven, M. 1991. Growth, decomposition, and nutrient retention of Cladium jamaicense Crantz and Typha domingensis Pers. in the Florida Everglades. Aquatic Botany, 40 p.203-224

Finkl, Charles W., 1995. Water resource management in the Florida Everglades: Are ëlessons from experienceí a prognosis for conservation in the future? Journal of Soil And Water Conservation, November/December p.592-600

Glaz, Barry, 1995. Research seeking agricultural and ecological benefits in the Everglades. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation p.609-611November-December

Holling, C.S. What Barriers? What Bridges? from Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions Barriers & Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions. Columbia University Press, New York
reproduced at http://www.cdf.ufl.edu/cdf/library/workpap/b-and-b/chapter1.html

Light, Stephen S., Lance H. Gunderson and C.S. Holling, 1995. The Everglades: Evolution of Management in a Turbulent Ecosystem. Barriers & Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions. Columbia University Press, New York reprinted at http://nersp.nerdc.ufl.edu/~arm/research/everg|Mngmt.html

NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), 1992. Natural Resources Inventory.

Walters, Carl, 1992. Experimental Policies For Water Managment In The Everglades. Ecological Apllications 2(2) p.189-202

Wiebe, Keith D., Abebayehu Tegene, and Betsey Kuhn, 1995. Property rights, partial interests, and the evolving federal role in wetlands conversion and conservation. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation November-December p.627-629

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