Everglades National Park

The major outlet for fresh water from the Everglades, Shark River features the region’s tallest and most productive red-mangrove forests.

The roots of mangrove trees braided together and holding the soil together
Strong Roots:

The massive mangrove forests in the Everglades are a bulwark against the effects of climate change.

Everglades National Park covers almost 2,400 square miles at the southern tip of Florida, and it was the first park created to protect habitat, rather than geographical features. The park features a variety of habitats—from sawgrass marshes and marl prairies to cypress forests and massive freshwater sloughs—and is home to an astonishing array of animals, fish, and birds, many of which exist nowhere else. Over the past century, however, the diversion of freshwater, draining of land for agriculture, and urban encroachment have reduced the Everglades to half their original size. The chronic lack of fresh water has also changed the habitat composition of the region, causing non-native plants to flourish, and allowed saltwater intrusion farther into the park. 

A map of the Everglades Watershed with Everglades National Park marked with an orange circle
A truck hauling a small motor boat drives past the Everglades National Park sign
Three people poling a boat along a river bank

At its southern and western edges, the park features the region’s tallest and most productive red-mangrove forests, which tower more than 60 feet high in some places. Aside from providing a nursery habitat for tarpon and goliath grouper, which are important for migratory species that have lost habitat elsewhere, mangroves play vital roles in protecting against saltwater intrusion, storm surges, and sea-level rise. The vast root systems hold soils in place, and the decaying plants create even more soils, leading to elevation rise. Scientists agree that rising seas will endanger south Florida in the future, and these forests could end up protecting people inland. Another benefit is carbon sequestration, in which the huge mass of plant life stores carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. Because coastal development has led to the loss of so many mangrove forests elsewhere in south Florida, Everglades restoration is vital to the survival of south Florida as a place where people can live.

A large fish emerges from the river near a boat of anglers

What you will find here...

...and what is at stake of being lost.

A line drawing of a Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis)

Common Snook (Centropomus undecimalis)

Just Call Me “Sarge”

Characterized by its large mouth with protruding jaw, the common snook, also known as the sergeant fish or robalo, inhabits inshore coastal waters, mangrove shorelines, seagrass beds, beaches, and around structures. Snook are exceptionally in tune with their environments, most notably water-temperature change, and in recent years have been found farther north in Florida than in the past, a phenomenon that is believed to be caused by warming waters.

A line drawing of a Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)

Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle)

A True Native

Florida is home to over 450,000 acres of mangrove forests; the mangrove is considered one of the most vital native species in the state. Mangroves help protect against wind and erosion, improve water quality, cycle organic materials, and serve as habitat to myriad marine organisms, which attach to their distinctive, aerial prop roots. Mangroves are also a food source for a vast number of fish and crustaceans.

A line drawing of two Florida Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris)

Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)

Idle Speed, Minimum Wake

The Florida Manatee has been a protected species since 1893 and was reclassified from endangered to threatened in 2017. Known as “sea cows,” adult manatees are typically nine to ten feet in length and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They are aquatic herbivores, spending up to eight hours a day grazing on seagrass. The manatee’s primary threat is from collisions with watercraft, however, it also faces threats from loss of warmwater habitat, entanglement, entrapment, and algal blooms (red tide), which can significantly reduce their food supply.

A Great Blue Heron stands on a river bank
Love Birds:

When Hurricane Irma provided lots of fresh water to the Everglades, wading birds nested in record numbers.

Three people fishing off a small boat on a green ocean

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