The Florida Everglades Ecology Essay

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Introduction

The Florida everglades boast of rare and indigenous species of snake, crocodiles, alligators and birds. Because of its rich biodiversity it has become a biosphere reserve, an important wetland of great significance internationally. Over the years however, most of the biodiversity has been lost through human-nature conflict. The need of agricultural land has led to land reclamation attempts resulting in loss of biodiversity. Restoration attempts are being made to simulate the current river flow to the flow before human interference.

Climate and geology

The climate of the everglades is mild as from December to April, this being a big asset that attracts thousands of visitors to the everglade park. The average temperatures in winter are highs of 770F (250C) and lows of 530F (120C). The warmer summers are hot and humid with temperatures averaging 900F (320c) and humidity of 90% (Mc cormick & Harvey, 2011). Tropical storms have effect on the area with most thunderstorms being experienced in the afternoons. Average rainfall is 60 inches per year. Rainy season is June to October, a period in which there is also an abundance of mosquitoes.

The geology of the everglades comprises of black organic soils with deposits of limestone. The rock floor is composed of marine limestone and fresh water and partially indurates marl from the fort Thompson. There are deposits of Miocene which are found in a large extent of southern Florida. There is also evidence of erosion deposits of Pliocene which discontinuously appear. The most continuous appearance is found along the Florida coast.

Biodiversity

As an ecological hotspot, the everglade is home to various species of animals some of which are only found at the everglades. Many species of birds are wading birds such as roseate spoonbill. The species nearly facing extinction are such as the snail kite, wood stork and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. The reptiles; the crocodiles and alligators, have great resemblance and are commonly mistaken for each other. The alligators inhabit the deep, fresh water sloughs while the crocodiles are common in the coastal bays of Florida.

The species of snakes are above 27 in number. Mammals inhabiting the everglade are such as the bottle nose dolphin, the West Indian manatee and the Florida panther. The latter two are endangered species. The plant species found are either wetland plants such as the saw grass bladderwort, and mangroves. Terrestrial plants such as cypress, pine wood and orchids are also found.

Some of the species found in the everglades:

Birds

Roseate tern

Sterna dougallii

Snail kite

Rostrhamus sociabilis

White ibis

Eudocimus albus

Mammals

Bottle nose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

Indian manatee

Trichechus manatus

Florida panther

Puma concolor

Reptiles

American alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

American crocodile

Crocodylus acutus

Sand skink

Neoseps (Eumeces) reynoldsi

Plants

Grass bladderwort

Utricularia spp.

Red mangrove

Rhizophora mangle

History of everglade

The history of the everglade portrays a picture of rapid extinction and loss of ecological diversity. This has become the more reason for conservation and restoration efforts currently being undertaken at the everglades. In the early 20th century, scientist estimated the population of birds at 250,000. The population of the birds has now reduced to 2,200 birds (Solecki et al, 1999). This loss has been attributed to the lessening of water in the everglades, a fact which environmentalists are struggling to counter to restore the bird population to the everglade.

The everglade has also been under a lot of pressure to be reclaimed and used for agriculture. Much of the everglade has been drained to yield to the ever increasing pressure of urbanization and agriculture. Extensive land subsidence has resulted from drainage of the wetland. Only 50% of the wetland currently remains (Solecki et al, 1999). The attempts to drain the water of the everglades to reclaim agricultural land have negatively impacted on the ecology and ecosystem stability. This has resulted in to loss of ecological diversity, even rendering some species viable to extinction. The mammalian species such as the panther are endangered.

Invasive species also haunt ecological stability in the everglades. These species were introduced either accidentally by tourists or deliberately to improve landscaping The water plant Hydrilla is an invasive plant that shades out native aquatic plant depriving them of sunlight, not to mention its reduction of water quality. Species such as the Melalueca trees were widely distributed by planes to improve landscaping.

Their excessive height limits flight of wading birds with large wingspan. They also are competitively more aggressive and threaten the exotic plant species (Solecki et al, 1999). Animal invasions of species such as the walking cat fish is an aggressive feeder and has good survival strategies. It feeds on the smaller native fishes and crustaceans. Bird species like the monk parakeet which is considered an agricultural pest in South America is also found in the Florida everglades. It reproduces very fast and forms large colonies with very destructive tendencies.

Conclusion

The everglade is an ecological hotspot that has suffered ignorance on the importance of conservation. From the time of occupation of America to current time species have been lost and irreversible degradation of the ecosystem suffered. The everglades currently host several endangered species of both flora and fauna while restoration attempts are being done on the ecosystem.

References

Mc cormick, P., V., & Harvey J., V., (2011). Influence of changing water sources and mineral chemistry on the everglade ecosystem, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 4128, 63, DOI: 10.1080/10643389.2010.530921.

Solecki W., D., Long, J. Harwell C. C., Myers, V., Zubrow, E., Ankersent, T., Deren, C.,…Feanny, C., (1999), Human–environment interactions in South Florida’s Everglades region: Systems of ecological degradation and restoration, Urban Ecosystems. 3, 305–343.

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