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.
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.
What you will find here...
...and what is at stake of being lost.