The purpose of my presentation is to educate the class in the basic components of the Everglades (the unique ecosystems and hydrogeography). I will then discuss how the natural flow of the ecosystem has been changed by man, what the effects of these changes were, and what efforts are being undertaken to correct the previous abuses. Plans exist on the Federal, state, and local level, so I will try to highlight the key points of these plans.
I. History of Everglades
A. Natural History
1. The Everglades are represent an unique ecosystem.
a. Recognized as a Biosphere Reserve in 1976.
b. Recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1976
2. Used to cover 4 million acres of South Florida
3. Everglades are characterized by the flow of water through the region.
a. 60 inches of precipitation during the wet season (April-November).
b. Water would flow down Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee.
c. From the Southern end of the Lake, the water entered either the Taylor Slough River or the Shark River Slough
d. These rivers flowed into the Florida Bay or the Gulf of Mexico.
B. Contains many different plant and animal species
1. Sawgrass prairies
2. Mangrove Islands
4. Endangered species include American Crocodile, Snail Kite, Wood Stork, and Florida Panther.
II. Current Problems
1. Urban and agricultural demands began to threaten the land in the late 1800's
a. Swamps and marshes were drained
b. Systems to protect the land from annual floods were installed.
(1) To control annual flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers channelized the Kissimmee River, draining 14,000 ha of floodplain.
(2) The Kissimmee River feeds Lake Okeechobee.
2. By the time that the Everglades National Park was created in 1947, half of the ecosystem had been destroyed.
a. The Park protected only 60% of the remaining ecosystem.
3. The remaining ecosystem came under the management of the South Florida Water Management District.
a. Purpose was to supply water to Miami and the surrounding farmland.
b. Canals and dikes were constructed to control the flow of water, eliminating the natural sheet flow of water.
B. Invasive Species
1. The Australian Eucalypt (Melaleuca quinquinervia) was introduced in the 1920's to help dry out the land.
a. Has spread over 100,000 acres of land, threatens the Big Cypress National Preserve.
2. Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebrinthinus) has colonized 100,000 acres of mangrove habitat.
3. These species grow densely, choking out native species.
a. Restoring pre-development conditions of 6 inches of standing water would stop these seeds from germinating.
C. Loss of species habitat
III. History of Restoration Efforts
A. 1972-Land Conservation Act passed by Florida Legislature
B. 1983-Governor Bob Graham starts "Save Our Everglades" with the South Florida Water Management District.
1. Goal to restore ecosystem to 1900 condition by year 2000.
a. Began Kissimmee River Restoration and expansion of both Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.
C. 1987-Surface Water Improvement and Management Act requires water management districts to develop plans to clean-up affected rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
D. 1993-South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force formed an interagency agreement to restore and protect Everglades ecosystems.
E. 1994-Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida makes recommendations to allow growth of communities while preserving Everglades ecosystem
F. 1994-Everglades Forever Act passed, setting restoration goals of restoring flow of water, control of exotic species, and minimize the use of agricultural runoff.
G. Present-US Army Corps of Engineers conducting a study of modifying water control devices while continuing to serve area water needs.
IV. Agencies Involved
A. The South Florida Water Management District has presented plans to restore the flow of the Kissimmee River.
B. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the canal system currently in place, as well as any plans to modify the canals.
C. National Park Service evaluates the quality of the Everglades National Park, provides much of the scientific information about the area.
D. US Department of the Interior is developing a $8 billion comprehensive ecological restoration of the Everglades.
E. Local water districts will be impacted by the restoration and are actively involved in development planning.
F. Agricultural lobbies have been strongly affected by the series of laws developed to protect the Everglades, currently own much of the land that could be restored.
V. Restoration Plan
A. Restoration efforts gained speed with the enactment of the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act
1. Provided funds for adding 107,600 acres to the east side of the park.
2. Directed Army Corps of Engineers to Work to restore the natural hydrological conditions within the park.
B. Endangered Species Act lead to an objection.
1. Snail Kite has established itself in the Northern section of the park.
2. The Restoration plan would drain this area, forcing the endangered species to look elsewhere for food.
C. Best long-term plan is to protect the habitat and allow the species to adapt.
D. Florida Statute 94-115 establishes guidelines for the restoration of the Everglades.
1. Restoring the historical flow.
2. Reduce the inflow of wastewater
3. Reducing phosphate discharge levels to less than 10 PPB by 2003.
E. The current restoration plan has been criticized by biologists.
1. Instead of restoring the natural flow, the plan tries to mimic natural flows through a series of canals, levees, and pumps.
2. Continues to allow the Everglades to be fragmented, does not restore the natural flow.
a. Some areas cannot be fully restored due to the subsidence of land after the water flow was halted.
VI. Specific Areas of Interest
A. Florida Bay
1. Most (2200 km2) of this shallow estuary lies within the Everglades National Park.
a. The bay used to receive sheet flow from the Everglades and the Taylor Slough River.
b. Canals have altered the water delivery system, containing much of the water in Water Conservation Areas.
c. Flow has been reduced from 2.3 million acre-feet to 473,000 acre feet of water.
2. The water quality in this Bay was deteriorated, for reasons not yet fully understood.
a. The water is gradually becoming more saline (50-70 ppt).
b. The loss of turtle grass has lead to increased sedimentation and higher phytoplankton populations.
B. Biscayne Bay
1. This protected area contains seagrass and soft coral communities.
a. Canals were constructed and the flow of the Miami River was altered to provide Miami with water.
b. Water does not flow through the bay, leading to persistant pollutants and a decrease in bio-diversity.
2. Sedimentation has lead to problems
a. Boats have stirred up sediments and smothered many seagrasses in the Northern area of the bay.
b. Runoff has introduced high levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, and organic compounds into the bay.
VII. Benefits of Restoration
A. Would aid in controlling exotic species
B. Provide Habitat for wading birds
1. 500,000 birds spent the summer in the Everglades in 1910, current numbers are at 30,000 birds.
C. What it calls for
Alper, Joe. "Everglades Rebound From Andrew." Science. Volume 257, September 25, 1992.
Busch, Terrnece V. "Dying From Thirst: Everglades Ecosystem, Destruction, and Rehabilitation." George Mason University http://geog.gmu.edu/projects/everglades/pract.html#top
Butler, Ian Kim Ferran, Jason Kim, Madelyn Martinez, and Paul Moen. "The Kissimmee River: The Nile River of South Florida." Web page.
Florida Conservation Foundation. "The Everglades in the Past-What Happened?" 1993
Public Affairs Office. National Parks Service. "Restoration Efforts: Everglades National Park. November 11, 1997. Http://www.nps.gov/ever/eco/restore.htm
"Restoration Programs in the Everglades" Florida International University. http://www.eng.fiu.edu/evrglads/engineer/restprog.htm
South Florida Water Management District, "Everglades Construction Project." http://188.8.131.52/org/erd/ecp/3_ecp.html
Stevens, William K. "Everglades Restoration Plan Does Too Little, Experts Say." New York Times. February 13, 1999. Section A1.
Webb, Frederick J. Proceedings of the 17th Annual Conference on Wetlands Restoration and Creation. May 10-11, 1990. Hillsborough Community College.
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