Man's Impact on the Everglades

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  • Topic: Everglades, Florida, Everglades National Park
  • Pages : 5 (1716 words )
  • Download(s) : 144
  • Published : October 10, 2012
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Man has never been content to leave the natural preserved in the state in which it was discovered. Likewise, the Everglades ecosystem has been bombarded by this pressure as man seeks to "redesign" the environment to suit the needs of the ever encroaching human population. This has brought about profound changes in this system and the way it operates. Collectors were among the first to extract a toll on this area because of its exotic indigenous creatures. Species which now face extinction include: several varieties of unusual Orchids and ferns, Florida tree snails, and the indigo snake. But the impact of collectors is not merely limited to the disappearance of species. For example, collectors burned Hardwood Hammocks to facilitate collecting tree snails. The high demand for feathers as the plumes of ladies' hats also endangered the Snowy Egret at one time. Another source of destruction includes off road vehicles such as air boats and swamp buggies used to negotiate the difficult terrain. These vehicles create ever widening soil ruts because the tracks are slippery and subsequent vehicles avoid them. Because hydroperiod plays a powerful role in habitat determination, even a slight change in water depth can profoundly effect the composition of the ecosystem. Channels interrupting sheet flow provide an alternate route for the water. Vegetation is uprooted and lost, as a result, enhancing the likelihood of invasion by opportunistic species such as cattails. In some areas, off road vehicles have resulted in the damage of tree islands. Melaleuca, an Australian tree, poses a different kind of the threat: that of introduced species. The trees overtake Sawgrass marshes and Cypress swamps in areas reduced by drainage. Their tolerance of fire further enhances their spread. Eventually, dense forests form which exclude the natural vegetation and dry up the environment. Brazilian pepper began its stay in the Florida area as an ornamental. Like the Melaleuca, it forms a closed forest, destroying feeding areas of many water birds. Brazilian pepper primarily overtakes coastal lowlands and pinelands. Over 200 plant species have been introduced "successfully" into the Everglades environment. Plants are not the only successful invaders. The Blue Tilapia, an animal intruder, grows too large to be eaten by the wading birds, while creating a devastating effect on the aquatic plant life. By far the most serious effect of man on the environment remains the alterations of water flow patterns for agricultural and metropolitan purposes. The direct channeling of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to the coast alters sheet flow, causing soil fires and saltwater backflow. Faced by these ever worsening scenarios, the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SF) took over the project in 1948. First, the C&SF built a perimeter to prevent encroachment of the sheet flow on developing metropolitan areas. Second, agriculture reclaimed the Okeechobee by draining the Lake swamp and rerouting the water to the Water Conservation fertile land directly south of Areas to the south. Total, Water Conservation Areas, which regulate water flow toprevent flood and drought, now represent 32 % of the original Everglades ecosystem. Everglades National Park, established in 1947, only contains 25% of the historic freshwater system. Other problems facing this ecosystem include the loss of wild life species diversity. Like the Snowy Egret, alligators, hunted for their hides, almost reached extinction until their sale was prohibited by law. Since that time, populations rebounded, however, bird populations still face intense reducing pressures. Wading birds follow the drying front during the drydown as the water flow concentrates prey at its border. Wading birds, therefore, only need make minor adjustments to determine the position of food daily. Consequently, larger rookeries and breeding seasons coordinate with the water flow so the drydown...
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