Two million acres of wetlands that harbor some of the richest bird and plant life in the world (Everglades Foundation 2016). Giant cypress trees, endless sawgrass marshes, and a labyrinth of mangroves are just a fraction of diverse ecosystems that make up the Everglades of south Florida.
One of the thousands of backwater inlets in the Everglades
Thousands of miles of Mangroves create a maze around the Everglades
It is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America. Twenty-one endangered or threatened animal species have found their last refuge within this expanse of marshes (Endangered Species Act 2017).
A rare Manatee in Florida Bay
The Everglades is one of the last remaining strongholds for the American Crocodile.
The extremely rare Florida Panther finds its home in the Everglades
Water is the all-powerful force that is constantly molding the Everglades as time slowly progresses. At its center sits lake Okeechobee. This massive natural freshwater lake has dictated the fate of Florida bay’s aquatic life for thousands of years. However, now the Everglades are being slowly strangled from a lack of water, and as a consequence the aquatic life of Florida Bay is suffering.
A typical urban Florida beach
Everyone knows and loves the many great things Florida has to offer like beaches, attractions, and beautiful weather. But many do not realize that this issue is affecting not only the environment of the Everglades, but the climate and beautiful beaches of Florida as well.
Miami is a typical Florida Destination
WHY is there a lack of water?
1. The water isn’t filtering through the everglades like it used to. Historically, the Everglades have acted as a huge water filter, sorting out any pollutants before the water reaches the sea. The vast majority of the water that would flow through Florida would be funneled and filtered by the Everglades. Now, the water has been diverted away from the Everglades into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers (Everglades foundation 2017). Because of this diversion, this unfiltered, contaminated water is being dumped into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico away from Florida Bay. The contaminated water is polluting the estuaries on Florida’s coasts and promoting massive algae blooms.
The diverted water flow away form the Everglades
What was the northern Everglades has now been turned into sugar cane feilds.
2. This problem all stems from the formation of the sugar cane fields north of the everglades. The sugar industry of Florida produces between $1.3 and $1.6 billion in total income a year (Hendry 2008). The two major companies, US Sugar and Florida Crystals, each control around 40% of Florida’s industry. Large government subsidies were placed on the sugar farms. With the subsidies enormous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients are brought in to make the fields suitable for sugarcane growth. Now what was the northern portion of the Everglades is the Everglades agricultural area, aka the EAA (Now or Neverglades Declaration 2017). Much of the Florida economy is wrapped up in sugar. All of these nutrients eventually flow into lake Okeechobee. From there the polluted water is diverted to the ocean and not being filtered by the Everglades.
The sugar cane fields are the source of the problem
Eutrophication is the excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water that can lead to die offs of animal life because of a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water (Bolen 1995). This eutrophication is raising the pH level and salinity of the Florida bay. The increased pH levels and salinity is causing massive killing off of animals and algae blooms. To make matters worse, the entire million dollar Florida sport fishing and tourism industry is hanging in the in balance. Peoples livelihood are at stake.
The algae is strangling the local fish populations
This is why the giant algae blooms have been in so prevalent in southern Florida. The toxic water stagnates in the slow moving Floridian waterways, and the only thing that can survive in this nutrient infested water is early successional plant life and algae (Everglades foundation 2016). The algae is essentially strangles the plant and fish species within these rivers.
Several red drum fell victim to the pollution
The summer time algae bloom a Florida suburb.
Effect on the Economy of South Florida
The billion-dollar industry of Florida sport fishing is a stake. In addition, the Floridian tourism market will plummet. With the agile blooms happening mid-summer and the fishery on the decline the bulk of the south Florida tourism industry is at a tipping point. The world renown tarpon, bonefish, barracuda, redfish, snook, spotted sea trout, permit, and shark fishery are all at stake (Weakley 2015).
A healthy juvenile red fish caught on the fly in Florida Bay
If the world renown fishing disappears then the hotels, guides, and businesses that depend on their tourism dollars also disappear (Clearwater 2016). And on a place which relays on tourism for economic growth and jobs this is a critical issue. These are just a few consequences that the Everglades and Florida Bay face. The economy of southern Florida is dependent on the health of its fishery and the tourism stems from it.
However, because of special interest in Floridian politics the bill to fix this problem is at a stand still. This issue can be remedied simply by public support. If enough citizens stand behind and sign the proposed Now or Neverglades Declaration, then the Everglades and the local economy of south Florida will be saved (Clearwater 2016). This declaration is a ballad that supports a proposed bill containing several key water management regulations that would save the Everglades and Florida Bay. If enough signatures are acquired, then the Floridian government has to pass the bill. The ironic part of this whole situation is that a solution has already been identified and the money necessary for it has already been approved. Several top scientists from the EPA and
A great blue heron surrounded by the never ending saw grass marshes that fell the Everglades
Florida DNR have laid out a detailed plan that would divert much of the needed water back through the everglades and to the rivers of saw grass that would filter out these toxins. The backbone of this plan revolves around the proposed southern storage area (Eikenberg 2016).
The southern storage area is a proposed lake below lake Okeechobee. According to Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, this body of water would serve as a giant retention pond that would capture the toxic water and slowly discharge it through the everglades where much of the toxins would be filtered out. There would be up to a 45%-49% decrease of contaminates with the building of the southern storage area. In addition, the water needed for the reservoir would divert much of polluted water away from the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The solution is fairly simple. We would just allow the Everglades to do what is has done for thousands of years.
The lack of water is the problem
However, this proposed southern storage area happens to lie on land that is owned by the massive sugar cane farms. Even though the sugar companies have the power to remedy their mistake, they refuse to sell the land. The whole cycle is caught in a negative feedback loop that is slowly spiraling downward. Recently though, a new bill, Florida state bill 10, has been introduced to the Floridian Government (Monahan 2017). This bill contains the needed policies to remedy the Everglades problem.
Levy work being preformed in Everglades National Park.
Another way to be apart of this movement is to actually volunteer. Signing the declaration to show your support is essential but hands on work is also key. Volunteering at Everglades National Park as an invasive species removal technician, conducting tours, or performing habitat improval are just a few way help through the park service (Endangered Species Act 2017). Going to Now or Neverglades rallies, sharing this issue on social media, or even donating to the Everglades Foundation are all way to support this causes (Everglades Foundation 2017).
Why should you care?
1. One in every three Floridians depend on the Everglades for drinking water (Everglades Foundation 2016). That’s eight million people that would not have water without the Everglades.
2. Many people make their income off of the animals living in the everglade.
3. The Everglades is an extremely bio diverse ecosystem that harbors some of the rarest plants and animal species in the world.
A proven solution has already been created. The fate of the economy and ecology of southern Florida hang in the balance. This issue has been morphed and deformed into a political blame game. This issue is not political; this dispute is a moral matter. Every American should have a say as to what happens to the Everglades. The real question is, should we clean up after our mistakes? Should we allow the Everglades to disappear?
1. Bolen, Eric G., and William L. Robinson. Wildlife Ecology and Management. Third ed. Englewood Cliff: Prentice Hall Inc., 1995. Print.
2. Clearwater, Captains For. "The Problem." Captainsforcleanwater.org. N.p., Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
3. Eikenberg, Eric. "It's Now or Neverglades." An Action Plan to Restore the Everglades, Protect Florida’s Water and Save Florida Tourism (2016): 1-13. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.Volunteering
4. Endangered Species Act. " Inventory of Threatened and Endangered Species in Everglades National Park." Www.nps.gov/ever. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
5. Everglades foundation. "Saving the Everglades." Evergladesfoundation.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
6. Hendry, Keri . "Raising Cane – A History of Big Sugar in South Florida." Floridacrackercrumbs.wordpress.com. N.p., 01 June 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
7. Monahan, Phil. "The Balance Shows Why We Must Act Now to Save the Everglades." Http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing. N.p., 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
8. "Now or Neverglade Decleration." Gladesdeclaration.org. N.p., 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
9. Shmukle, Chad. "It's Now or Neverglades." Hatch Magazine 11 July 2016: 20-24. Print.
10. Weakley, Jeff . " Fishing Florida Bay." Http://www.floridasportsman.com. N.p., 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
11. Photograph links in order of appearance: Created with images by skeeze - "sunset landscape sky" • Unsplash - "jungle everglades swamp" • cletch - "Mangroves" • PublicDomainImages - "fish underwater manatee" • benfff85 - "IMG_0061" • USFWS Headquarters - "Florida panther" • apasciuto - "Juno Beach" • alexdecarvalho - "brickell" • miamism - "Opera Tower View from the 33rd floor" • Kačka a Ondra - "Útěk / Running Away" • JaxStrong - "Breaking through the old Tamiami Trail roadway" • skeeze - "sunrise everglades colorful"