The Everglades is located in southern Florida and is also referred to as the “River of Grass” due to its waters that spread over the saw grass of the lowlands. The Florida Everglades has a history that extends back several centuries and in fact, humans inhabited the land thousands of years ago when the Everglades consisted of more than 5 million acres which extended from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.
The Everglades is a subtropical wetland with significant biodiversity importance due to the wide variety of purposes of the ecosystems in the wetlands that provide the habitat for wildlife, plants, micro-organisms, and other animals. Although the Everglades was reduced in size during the early part of the 20th century to allow settlers to build homes and harvest crops, a lot of effort has been put forth to try and protect the remaining wetlands.
History of Everglades and Its Importance as an Icon of Indian History
Several centuries ago the Everglades was originally a watershed that consisted of over 5 million acres of wetland and covered a significant portion of the state of Florida equal to 11,000 square miles. Since the beginning of the 20th century, early settlers diverted the waters for the purpose of acquiring a steady water supply and for protection from floods. From that time period and forward the Everglades was gradually reduced in size due to the growth of agriculture.
To provide protection for the remaining wetlands the US government divided the Everglades into a historic region which consists of the original acreage with the northern portion of the Everglades reserved for agriculture. The historic portion is now known as Everglades National Park and the northern section currently used for growing sugarcane.
The historic Everglades are filled with Indian culture exhibits that depict the culture of the Seminole and Micosukee Everglades Indians. The history of the Seminole Indians began in the early 19th century when the Creek and Muskogee people began to inhabit the area following their move from the southern states in the US.
The Creek and Muskogee people were known as Seminoles once they inhabited the Everglades until they were forced to move west as a result of the Trail of Tears war beginning in 1835. The Seminoles fought the US army and some of the Seminole people hid in the Everglades where Seminole descendants continue to remain in the current day.
Flora and Fauna of the Everglades
The Everglades plays a significant role in the preservation of wildlife, plants, and animals. There is a wide variety of water birds that inhabit the wetlands as well as thousands of different types of plants and animals.
The plant life that exists in the Everglades includes several million acres of saw grass along with Mangroves which can be found along the shores and the inland. In the Pinelands you can find slash pine, saw palmetto, and the morning glory. The Pinelands also play an important role in providing a habitat for smaller birds and animals such as the pine warbler and cotton mouse.
The Florida Bay is home to a wide variety of wildlife species including sea turtles and dolphins and contains hundreds of keys that are formed by the roots of the mangroves. There are also tree islands that contain abundant vegetation where the white-tailed deer, owls, and marsh rabbits inhabit the area.
A wide variety of animal species inhabit the Everglades, some of which can be dangerous such as the American alligator, American crocodile, and the Everglades alligator. The American alligator is one of the largest and most dangerous reptiles at a size that exceeds 15 feet long. The American crocodile is elusive and is currently an endangered reptile species.
What Are the Challenges for the Everglades Bio Diversity?
The Florida Everglades provides habitats for the largest amount of different species in North America. Currently there are approximately 70 different endangered species which include the previously mentioned American crocodile. The Everglades provides a unique habitat unlike any other in the United States and currently consists of less than 11 percent of the original wetlands. This is mostly due to the population increase in the southern part of the peninsula that is crowding the Everglades acreage.
The many different species that inhabit the Everglades National Park are an important component of our ecosystem and the largest subtropical wetland in North America. Some of the species are rare and endangered in addition to the wide variety of bird species that inhabit the everglades. The ecosystem of the Everglades is currently on the brink of being extinct due to water diversion for human use which interrupts feeding and nesting cycles. Additionally, the water contains pollutants and non-native species that have inhabited the area. The habitats that have been left undisturbed by humans are basically limited to the Everglades National Park.
So why should you care about the Everglades? It is one of the largest remaining subtropical habitats in North America that is being diminished by human consumption. To address environmental concerns the federal government has initiated the Everglades Restoration Plan in an effort to protect the water and environment and revitalize the ecosystem to bring the ecosystem back into balance.