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The Everglades is a
natural region A natural region (landscape unit) is a basic geographic unit. Usually, it is a region which is distinguished by its common natural features of geography, geology, and climate. From the ecological point of view, the naturally occurring flora and ...
of
tropical The tropics are the regions of Earth surrounding the Equator. They are defined in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at S. The tropics are also referred to ...
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free ( anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. T ...
s in the southern portion of the U.S. state of
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geo ...
, comprising the southern half of a large
drainage basin A drainage basin is an area of land where all flowing surface water converges to a single point, such as a river mouth, or flows into another body of water, such as a lake or ocean. A basin is separated from adjacent basins by a perimeter, ...
within the
Neotropical realm The Neotropical realm is one of the eight biogeographic realms constituting Earth's land surface. Physically, it includes the tropical terrestrial ecoregions of the Americas and the entire South American temperate zone. Definition In biog ...
. The system begins near
Orlando Orlando () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and is the county seat of Orange County. In Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures re ...
with the
Kissimmee River The Kissimmee River is a river in south-central Florida, United States that forms the north part of the Everglades wetlands area. The river begins at East Lake Tohopekaliga south of Orlando, flowing south through Lake Kissimmee into the large ...
, which discharges into the vast but shallow
Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee (), also known as Florida's Inland Sea, is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Florida. It is the tenth largest natural freshwater lake among the 50 states of the United States and the second-largest natural freshw ...
. Water leaving the
lake A lake is an area filled with water, localized in a basin, surrounded by land, and distinct from any river or other outlet that serves to feed or drain the lake. Lakes lie on land and are not part of the ocean, although, like the much larger ...
in the wet season forms a slow-moving
river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of ...
wide and over long, flowing southward across a
limestone Limestone ( calcium carbonate ) is a type of carbonate sedimentary rock which is the main source of the material lime. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of . Limestone forms wh ...
shelf to
Florida Bay Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland (the Florida Everglades) and the Florida Keys in the United States. It is a large, shallow estuary that while connected to the Gulf of Mexico, has limited exchange of ...
at the southern end of the state. The Everglades experiences a wide range of weather patterns, from frequent flooding in the wet season to drought in the dry season. Throughout the 20th century, the Everglades suffered significant loss of habitat and
environmental degradation Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as quality of air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is ...
. Human habitation in the southern portion of the Florida peninsula dates to 15,000 years ago. Before European colonization, the region was dominated by the native
Calusa The Calusa ( ) were a Native American people of Florida's southwest coast. Calusa society developed from that of archaic peoples of the Everglades region. Previous indigenous cultures had lived in the area for thousands of years. At the time of ...
and
Tequesta The Tequesta (also Tekesta, Tegesta, Chequesta, Vizcaynos) were a Native American tribe. At the time of first European contact they occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida. They had infrequent contact with Europeans a ...
tribes. With Spanish colonization, both tribes declined gradually during the following two centuries. The
Seminole The Seminole are a Native American people who developed in Florida in the 18th century. Today, they live in Oklahoma and Florida, and comprise three federally recognized tribes: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and ...
, formed from mostly Creek people who had been warring to the North, assimilated other peoples and created a new culture after being forced from northern Florida into the Everglades during the
Seminole Wars The Seminole Wars (also known as the Florida Wars) were three related military conflicts in Florida between the United States and the Seminole, citizens of a Native American nation which formed in the region during the early 1700s. Hostilities ...
of the early 19th century. After adapting to the region, they were able to resist removal by the United States Army. Migrants to the region who wanted to develop plantations first proposed draining the Everglades in 1848, but no work of this type was attempted until 1882. Canals were constructed throughout the first half of the 20th century, and spurred the South Florida economy, prompting land development. In 1947, Congress formed the
Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions and generalised locations * Central Africa, a region in the centre of Africa continent, also known as ...
, which built of canals,
levee A levee (), dike (American English), dyke (Commonwealth English), embankment, floodbank, or stop bank is a structure that is usually earthen and that often runs parallel to the course of a river in its floodplain or along low-lying coastli ...
s, and water control devices. The Miami metropolitan area grew substantially at this time and Everglades water was diverted to cities. Portions of the Everglades were transformed into farmland, where the primary crop was
sugarcane Sugarcane or sugar cane is a species of (often hybrid) tall, perennial grass (in the genus '' Saccharum'', tribe Andropogoneae) that is used for sugar production. The plants are 2–6 m (6–20 ft) tall with stout, jointed, fibrous stalks ...
. Approximately 50 percent of the original Everglades has been developed as agricultural or urban areas. Following this period of rapid development and environmental degradation, the ecosystem began to receive notable attention from conservation groups in the 1970s. Internationally,
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. It ...
and the
Ramsar Convention The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of Ramsar sites ( wetlands). It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It ...
designated the Everglades a Wetland Area of Global Importance. The construction of a large airport north of
Everglades National Park Everglades National Park is an American national park that protects the southern twenty percent of the original Everglades in Florida. The park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and the largest wilderness of any kind east ...
was blocked when an environmental study found that it would severely damage the South Florida ecosystem. With heightened awareness and appreciation of the region, restoration began in the 1980s with the removal of a canal that had straightened the Kissimmee River. However, development and sustainability concerns have remained pertinent in the region. The deterioration of the Everglades, including poor water quality in
Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee (), also known as Florida's Inland Sea, is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Florida. It is the tenth largest natural freshwater lake among the 50 states of the United States and the second-largest natural freshw ...
, was linked to the diminishing quality of life in South Florida's urban areas. In 2000 the
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is the plan enacted by the U.S. Congress for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem in southern Florida. When originally authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2000, it was estimated that CER ...
was approved by Congress to combat these problems, which at that time was considered the most expensive and comprehensive environmental restoration attempt in history; however, implementation faced political complications.


Names

The first written record of the Everglades was on Spanish maps made by
cartographer Cartography (; from grc, χάρτης , "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and , "write") is the study and practice of making and using maps. Combining science, aesthetics and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality (or an im ...
s who had not seen the land. They named the unknown area between the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida ''Laguna del Espíritu Santo'' ("Lake of the Holy Spirit"). The area was featured on maps for decades without having been explored. Writer James Grant Forbes stated in 1811, "The Indians represent he Southern pointsas impenetrable; and the ritishsurveyors, wreckers, and coasters, had not the means of exploring beyond the borders of the sea coast, and the mouths of rivers". British surveyor John Gerard de Brahm, who mapped the coast of Florida in 1773, called the area "River Glades". The name "Everglades" first appeared on a map in 1823, although it was also spelled as "Ever Glades" as late as 1851. The
Seminole The Seminole are a Native American people who developed in Florida in the 18th century. Today, they live in Oklahoma and Florida, and comprise three federally recognized tribes: the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and ...
call it ''Pahokee'', meaning "Grassy Water".Douglas, pp. 7–8. The region was labeled "''Pa-hai-okee''" on a U.S. military map from 1839, although it had earlier been called "Ever Glades" throughout the
Second Seminole War The Second Seminole War, also known as the Florida War, was a conflict from 1835 to 1842 in Florida between the United States and groups collectively known as Seminoles, consisting of Native Americans and Black Indians. It was part of a ser ...
. A 2007 survey by geographers Ary J. Lamme and Raymond K. Oldakowski found that the "Glades" has emerged as a distinct vernacular
region In geography, regions, otherwise referred to as zones, lands or territories, are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and t ...
of Florida. It comprises the interior areas and southernmost
Gulf Coast The Gulf Coast of the United States, also known as the Gulf South, is the coastline along the Southern United States where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. The coastal states that have a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico are Texas, Louisiana, Mi ...
of
South Florida South Florida is the southernmost region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is one of Florida's three most commonly referred to directional regions; the other two are Central Florida and North Florida. South Florida is the southernmost part of ...
, largely corresponding to the Everglades itself. It is one of the most sparsely populated areas of the state.


Geology

The
geology Geology () is a branch of natural science concerned with Earth and other astronomical objects, the features or rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. Modern geology significantly overlaps all other Ear ...
of South Florida, together with a warm, wet, subtropical/tropical climate, provides conditions well-suited for a large marshland ecosystem. Layers of porous and permeable limestone create water-bearing rock and soil that affect the climate, weather, and
hydrology Hydrology () is the scientific study of the movement, distribution, and management of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water resources, and environmental watershed sustainability. A practitioner of hydrology is calle ...
of South Florida. The properties of the rock underneath the Everglades can be explained by the geologic history of the state. The crust underneath Florida was at one point part of the African region of the supercontinent
Gondwana Gondwana () was a large landmass, often referred to as a supercontinent, that formed during the late Neoproterozoic (about 550 million years ago) and began to break up during the Jurassic period The Jurassic ( ) is a geologic period and st ...
. About 300 million years ago, North America merged with Africa, connecting Florida with North America. Volcanic activity centered on the eastern side of Florida covered the prevalent
sedimentary rock Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic particles at Earth's surface, followed by cementation. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause these particles ...
with
igneous rock Igneous rock (derived from the Latin word ''ignis'' meaning fire), or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma ...
. Continental rifting began to separate North America from Gondwana about 180 million years ago. When Florida was part of Africa, it was initially above water, but during the cooler Jurassic Period, the Florida Platform became a shallow marine environment in which sedimentary rocks were deposited. Through the
Cretaceous Period The Cretaceous ( ) is a geological period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago (Mya). It is the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era, as well as the longest. At around 79 million years, it is the longest geological period of ...
, most of Florida remained a tropical sea floor of varying depths. The peninsula has been covered by seawater at least seven times since the bedrock formed.Gleason, Patrick, Peter Stone, "Age, Origins, and Landscape Evolution of the Everglades Peatland" in ''Everglades: The Ecosystem and its Restoration'', Steven Davis and John Ogden, eds. (1994), St. Lucie Press.


Limestone and aquifers

Fluctuating sea levels compressed numerous layers of calcium carbonate, sand, and shells. The resulting permeable
limestone Limestone ( calcium carbonate ) is a type of carbonate sedimentary rock which is the main source of the material lime. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of . Limestone forms wh ...
formations that developed between 25 million and 70 million years ago created the Floridan Aquifer, which serves as the main source of fresh water for the northern portion of Florida. However, this aquifer lies beneath thousands of feet of impermeable sedimentary rock from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of the peninsula. Five geologic formations form the surface of the southern portion of Florida: the Tamiami Formation, Caloosahatchee Formation, Anastasia Formation, Miami Limestone, and the Fort Thompson Formation. The Tamiami Formation is a compression of highly permeable light-colored fossiliferous sands and pockets of
quartz Quartz is a hard, crystalline mineral composed of silica (silicon dioxide). The atoms are linked in a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall chemical fo ...
, thick. It is named for the Tamiami Trail that follows the upper bedrock of the Big Cypress Swamp, and underlies the southern portion of the Everglades. Between the Tamiami Formation and Lake Okeechobee is the Caloosahatchee Formation, named for the river over it. Much less permeable, this formation is highly calcitic and is composed of sandy shell marl, clay, and sand. Water underneath the Caloosahatchee Formation is typically very mineralized. Both the Tamiami and Caloosahatchee Formations developed during the
Pliocene Epoch The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) is the epoch in the geologic time scale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58UF & USDA (1948), p. 30–33. Underneath the metropolitan areas of
Palm Beach County Palm Beach County is a county located in the southeastern part of Florida and lies directly north of Broward County and Miami-Dade County. The county had a population of 1,492,191 as of the 2020 census, making it the third-most populous county ...
is the Anastasia Formation, composed of shelly limestone, coquina, and sand representing a former mangrove or salt marsh. The Anastasia Formation is much more permeable and filled with pocks and solution holes. The Fort Thompson and Anastasia Formations, and Miami Limestone and (x), were formed during the Sangamonian interglacial period.Lodge, p. 10 The geologic formations that have the most influence on the Everglades are the Miami Limestone and the Fort Thompson Formation. The Miami Limestone has two
facies In geology, a facies ( , ; same pronunciation and spelling in the plural) is a body of rock with specified characteristics, which can be any observable attribute of rocks (such as their overall appearance, composition, or condition of formatio ...
. The Miami Oolite facies, which underlies the Atlantic Coastal Ridge from southern Palm Beach County to southern Miami-Dade County, is made up of
ooids Ooids are small (commonly ≤2 mm in diameter), spheroidal, "coated" (layered) sedimentary grains, usually composed of calcium carbonate, but sometimes made up of iron- or phosphate-based minerals. Ooids usually form on the sea floor, mo ...
: tiny formations of egg-shaped concentric shells and calcium carbonate, formed around a single grain of sand or shell fragment. The other facies, which underlies the eastern lower Everglades (in Miami-Dade County and part of Monroe County) consists of fossilized bryozoan organisms. The unique structure was some of the first material used in housing in early 20th-century South Florida. The composition of this sedimentary formation affects the hydrology, plant life, and wildlife above it: the rock is especially porous and stores water during the dry season in the Everglades, and its chemical composition determines the vegetation prevalent in the region. The Miami Oolite facies also acts to impede flow of water from the Everglades to the ocean between
Fort Lauderdale A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from Latin ''fortis'' ("strong") and ''facere ...
and Coot Bay (near Cape Sable). The metropolitan areas of
Miami Miami ( ), officially the City of Miami, known as "the 305", "The Magic City", and "Gateway to the Americas", is a coastal metropolis and the county seat of Miami-Dade County in South Florida, United States. With a population of 442,241 at t ...
, Fort Lauderdale, and
West Palm Beach West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from east and is the direction in which the Sun sets on the Earth. Etymology The word "west" is a Germanic word passed into some ...
are located on a rise in elevation along the eastern coast of Florida, called the Eastern Coastal Ridge, that was formed as waves compressed ooids into a single formation. Along the western border of the Big Cypress Swamp is the Immokolee Ridge (or Immokolee Rise), a slight rise of compressed sand that divides the runoff between the Caloosahatchee River and The Big Cypress. This slight rise in elevation on both sides of the Everglades creates a basin, and forces water that overflows Lake Okeechobee to creep toward the southwest. Under both the Miami Limestone formation and the Fort Thompson limestone lies the
Biscayne Aquifer The Biscayne Aquifer, named after Biscayne Bay, is a surficial aquifer. It is a shallow layer of highly permeable limestone under a portion of South Florida. The area it underlies includes Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Monroe County, a ...
, a surface aquifer that serves as the Miami metropolitan area's fresh water source. Rainfall and stored water in the Everglades replenish the Biscayne Aquifer directly. With the rise of sea levels that occurred during the
Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the '' Ice age'') is the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the Earth's most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change was finally confirmed i ...
approximately 17,000 years ago, the runoff of water from Lake Okeechobee slowed and created the vast marshland that is now known as the Everglades. Slower runoff also created an accumulation of almost 18 feet (5.5 m) of
peat Peat (), also known as turf (), is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter. It is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs. The peatland ecosystem covers and is the most efficie ...
in the area. The presence of such peat deposits, dated to about 5,000 years ago, is evidence that widespread flooding had occurred by then.


Hydrology

The consistent Everglades flooding is fed by the extensive Kissimmee, Caloosahatchee,
Miami Miami ( ), officially the City of Miami, known as "the 305", "The Magic City", and "Gateway to the Americas", is a coastal metropolis and the county seat of Miami-Dade County in South Florida, United States. With a population of 442,241 at t ...
, Myakka, and Peace Rivers in central Florida. The Kissimmee River is a broad
floodplain A floodplain or flood plain or bottomlands is an area of land adjacent to a river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls, and which experiences flooding during periods of high discharge.Goud ...
that empties directly into Lake Okeechobee, which at with an average depth of , is a vast but shallow lake. Soil deposits in the Everglades basin indicate that peat is deposited where the land is flooded consistently throughout the year. Calcium deposits are left behind when flooding is shorter. The deposits occur in areas where water rises and falls depending on rainfall, as opposed to water being stored in the rock from one year to the next. Calcium deposits are present where more limestone is exposed. The area from
Orlando Orlando () is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and is the county seat of Orange County. In Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures re ...
to the tip of the Florida peninsula was at one point a single drainage unit. When rainfall exceeded the capacity of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River floodplain, it spilled over and flowed in a southwestern direction to empty into
Florida Bay Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland (the Florida Everglades) and the Florida Keys in the United States. It is a large, shallow estuary that while connected to the Gulf of Mexico, has limited exchange of ...
. Prior to urban and agricultural development in Florida, the Everglades began at the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee and flowed for approximately , emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. The limestone shelf is wide and slightly angled instead of having a narrow, deep channel characteristic of most rivers. The vertical gradient from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay is about per mile, creating an almost wide expanse of river that travels about half a mile (0.8 km) a day. This slow movement of a broad, shallow river is known as ''sheetflow'', and gives the Everglades its nickname, River of Grass. Water leaving Lake Okeechobee may require months or years to reach its final destination, Florida Bay. The sheetflow travels so slowly that water is typically stored from one wet season to the next in the porous limestone substrate. The ebb and flow of water has shaped the land and every ecosystem in South Florida throughout the Everglades' estimated 5,000 years of existence. The motion of water defines plant communities and how animals adapt to their habitats and food sources.


Climate

The climate of
South Florida South Florida is the southernmost region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is one of Florida's three most commonly referred to directional regions; the other two are Central Florida and North Florida. South Florida is the southernmost part of ...
is located across the broad transition zone between
subtropical The subtropical zones or subtropics are geographical zone, geographical and Köppen climate classification, climate zones to the Northern Hemisphere, north and Southern Hemisphere, south of the tropics. Geographically part of the Geographical z ...
and
tropical climate Tropical climate is the first of the five major climate groups in the Köppen climate classification identified with the letter A. Tropical climates are defined by a monthly average temperature of 18 °C (64.4 °F) or higher in the cool ...
s ( Koppen Aw, Am and Cfa). Like most regions with this climate type, there are two basic seasons – a "dry season" (winter) which runs from November through April, and a "wet season" (summer) which runs from May through October. About 70% of the annual rainfall in south Florida occurs in the wet season – often as brief but intense tropical downpours. The dry season sees little rainfall and dew points and humidity are often quite low. The dry season can be severe at times, as wildfires and water restrictions are often in place. The annual range of temperatures in south Florida and the Everglades is rather small (less than 20 °F 1 °C – ranging from a monthly mean temperature of around in January to in July. High temperatures in the hot and wet season (summer) typically exceed across inland south Florida (although coastal locations are cooled by winds from the
Gulf of Mexico The Gulf of Mexico ( es, Golfo de México) is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United St ...
and the Atlantic Ocean), while high temperatures in the dry winter season average from . Frost and freeze are rare across south Florida and the Everglades; annually coastal cities like Miami and Naples report zero days with frost, although a few times each decade low temperatures may fall between across South Florida. The
plant hardiness zone A hardiness zone is a geographic area defined as having a certain average annual minimum temperature, a factor relevant to the survival of many plants. In some systems other statistics are included in the calculations. The original and most wide ...
s are 10a north with an average annual extreme minimum air temperature of 30 to 35 °F (−1 to +2 °C), and 10b south with an average annual extreme minimum air temperature of 35 to 40 °F (2 to 4 °C). Annual rainfall averages approximately , with the Eastern Coastal Ridge receiving the majority of precipitation and the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee receiving about . Unlike any other wetland system on earth, the Everglades are sustained primarily by the atmosphere.
Evapotranspiration Evapotranspiration (ET) is the combined processes by which water moves from the earth’s surface into the atmosphere. It covers both water evaporation (movement of water to the air directly from soil, canopies, and water bodies) and transpira ...
– the sum of evaporation and plant transpiration from the Earth's land surface to atmosphere – associated with thunderstorms, is the key mechanism by which water leaves the region. During a year unaffected by drought, the rate may reach a year. When droughts take place, the rate may peak at over , and exceed the amount of rainfall. As water leaves an area through evaporation from groundwater or from plant matter, activated primarily by solar energy, it is then moved by wind patterns to other areas that border or flow into the Everglades watershed system. Evapotranspiration is responsible for approximately 70–90 percent of water entering undeveloped wetland regions in the Everglades. Precipitation during the wet season is primarily caused by air mass thunderstorms and the easterly flow out of the subtropical high (Bermuda High). Intense daytime heating of the ground causes the warm moist tropical air to rise, creating the afternoon thundershowers typical of tropical climates. 2:00 pm is the mean time of daily thundershowers across South Florida and the Everglades. Late in the wet season (August and September), precipitation levels reach their highest levels as tropical depressions and lows add to daily rainfall. Occasionally, tropical lows can become severe tropical cyclones and cause significant damage when they make landfall across south Florida. Tropical storms average one a year, and major hurricanes about once every ten years. Between 1871 and 1981, 138 tropical cyclones struck directly over or close to the Everglades. Strong winds from these storms disperse plant seeds and replenish
mangrove A mangrove is a shrub or tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water. The term is also used for tropical coastal vegetation consisting of such species. Mangroves are taxonomically diverse, as a result of convergent evolution in sever ...
forests, coral reefs, and other ecosystems. Dramatic fluctuations in precipitation are characteristic of the South Florida climate.
Drought A drought is defined as drier than normal conditions.Douville, H., K. Raghavan, J. Renwick, R.P. Allan, P.A. Arias, M. Barlow, R. Cerezo-Mota, A. Cherchi, T.Y. Gan, J. Gergis, D.  Jiang, A.  Khan, W.  Pokam Mba, D.  Rosenfeld, J. Tierney, an ...
s,
flood A flood is an overflow of water ( or rarely other fluids) that submerges land that is usually dry. In the sense of "flowing water", the word may also be applied to the inflow of the tide. Floods are an area of study of the discipline hydrolog ...
s, and tropical cyclones are part of the natural water system in the Everglades.


Formative and sustaining processes

The Everglades are a complex system of interdependent ecosystems.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, author, women's suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for de ...
described the area as a "River of Grass" in 1947, though that metaphor represents only a portion of the system. The area recognized as the Everglades, prior to drainage, was a web of marshes and prairies in size. Borders between ecosystems are subtle or imperceptible. These systems shift, grow and shrink, die, or reappear within years or decades. Geologic factors, climate, and the frequency of fire help to create, maintain, or replace the ecosystems in the Everglades.


Water

Water is the dominant force in the Everglades, shaping the land, vegetation, and animal life in South Florida. Starting at the
last glacial maximum The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), also referred to as the Late Glacial Maximum, was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets were at their greatest extent. Ice sheets covered much of Northern North America, Northern Eu ...
, 21,000 years ago, continental ice sheets retreated and sea levels rose. This submerged portions of the Florida peninsula and caused the
water table The water table is the upper surface of the zone of saturation. The zone of saturation is where the pores and fractures of the ground are saturated with water. It can also be simply explained as the depth below which the ground is saturated. T ...
to rise. Fresh water saturated the limestone that underlies the Everglades, eroding some of it away, and created springs and sinkholes. The abundance of fresh water allowed new vegetation to take root, and formed convective thunderstorms over the land through evaporation. As rain continued to fall, the slightly acidic rainwater dissolved the limestone. As limestone wore away, the groundwater came into contact with the land surface and created a massive wetland ecosystem.McCally, pp. 9–10. Although the region appears flat,
weathering Weathering is the deterioration of rocks, soils and minerals as well as wood and artificial materials through contact with water, atmospheric gases, and biological organisms. Weathering occurs ''in situ'' (on site, with little or no movement), ...
of the limestone created slight valleys and plateaus in some areas. These plateaus rise and fall only a few inches, but on the subtle South Florida topography these small variations affect both the flow of water and the types of vegetation that can take hold.


Rock

The underlying bedrock or limestone of the Everglades basin affects the ''hydroperiod'', or how long an area within the region stays flooded throughout the year. Longer hydroperiods are possible in areas that were submerged beneath seawater for longer periods of time, while the geology of Florida was forming. More water is held within the porous
ooid Ooids are small (commonly ≤2 mm in diameter), spheroidal, "coated" (layered) sedimentary grains, usually composed of calcium carbonate, but sometimes made up of iron- or phosphate-based minerals. Ooids usually form on the sea floor, mo ...
s and limestone than older types of rock that spent more time above sea level. A hydroperiod of ten months or more fosters the growth of sawgrass, whereas a shorter hydroperiod of six months or less promotes beds of periphyton, a growth of algae and other microscopic organisms. There are only two types of soil in the Everglades,
peat Peat (), also known as turf (), is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter. It is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs. The peatland ecosystem covers and is the most efficie ...
and marl. Where there are longer hydroperiods, peat builds up over hundreds or thousands of years due to many generations of decaying plant matter. Where periphyton grows, the soil develops into marl, which is more calcitic in composition. Initial attempts at developing agriculture near Lake Okeechobee were successful, but the nutrients in the peat were rapidly removed. In a process called soil subsidence,
oxidation Redox (reduction–oxidation, , ) is a type of chemical reaction in which the oxidation states of substrate change. Oxidation is the loss of electrons or an increase in the oxidation state, while reduction is the gain of electrons or a ...
of peat causes loss of volume. Bacteria decompose dead sawgrass slowly underwater without oxygen. When the water was drained in the 1920s and bacteria interacted with oxygen, an aerobic reaction occurred. Microorganisms degraded the peat into
carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide ( chemical formula ) is a chemical compound made up of molecules that each have one carbon atom covalently double bonded to two oxygen atoms. It is found in the gas state at room temperature. In the air, carbon dioxide is tr ...
and water. Some of the peat was burned by settlers to clear the land. Some homes built in the areas of early farms had to have their foundations moved to stilts as the peat deteriorated; other areas lost approximately of soil depth.Lodge, p. 38.


Fire

Fire is an important element in the natural maintenance of the Everglades. The majority of fires are caused by
lightning Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions, both in the atmosphere or with one on the ground, temporarily neutralize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of an average ...
strikes from thunderstorms during the wet season. Their effects are largely superficial, and serve to foster specific plant growth: sawgrass will burn above water, but the roots are preserved underneath. Fire in the sawgrass marshes serves to keep out larger bushes and trees, and releases nutrients from decaying plant matter more efficiently than
decomposition Decomposition or rot is the process by which dead organic substances are broken down into simpler organic or inorganic matter such as carbon dioxide, water, simple sugars and mineral salts. The process is a part of the nutrient cycle and is ...
.Lodge, pp. 39–41. Whereas in the wet season, dead plant matter and the tips of grasses and trees are burned, in the dry season the fire may be fed by organic peat and burn deeply, destroying root systems. Fires are confined by existing water and rainfall. It takes approximately 225 years for one foot (.30 m) of peat to develop, but in some locations the peat is less dense than it should be for the 5,000 years of the Everglades' existence.McCally, pp. 18–21. Scientists indicate fire as the cause; it is also cited as the reason for the black color of Everglades muck. Layers of
charcoal Charcoal is a lightweight black carbon residue produced by strongly heating wood (or other animal and plant materials) in minimal oxygen to remove all water and volatile constituents. In the traditional version of this pyrolysis process, cal ...
have been detected in the peat in portions of the Everglades that indicate the region endured severe fires for years at a time, although this trend seems to have abated since the last occurrence in 940 BC.


Ecosystems


Sawgrass marshes and sloughs

Several ecosystems are present in the Everglades, and boundaries between them are subtle or absent. The primary feature of the Everglades is the sawgrass marsh. The iconic water and sawgrass combination in the shallow river long and wide that spans from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay is often referred to as the "true Everglades" or just "the Glades". Prior to the first drainage attempts in 1905, the sheetflow occupied nearly a third of the lower Florida peninsula. Sawgrass thrives in the slowly moving water, but may die in unusually deep floods if oxygen is unable to reach its roots. It is particularly vulnerable immediately after a fire. The hydroperiod for the marsh is at least nine months, and can last longer. Where sawgrass grows densely, few animals or other plants live, although
alligator An alligator is a large reptile in the Crocodilia order in the genus ''Alligator'' of the family Alligatoridae. The two extant species are the American alligator (''A. mississippiensis'') and the Chinese alligator (''A. sinensis''). Additional ...
s choose these locations for nesting. Where there is more room, periphyton grows. Periphyton supports larval insects and amphibians, which in turn are consumed as food by birds, fish, and reptiles. It also absorbs
calcium Calcium is a chemical element with the symbol Ca and atomic number 20. As an alkaline earth metal, calcium is a reactive metal that forms a dark oxide-nitride layer when exposed to air. Its physical and chemical properties are most similar ...
from water, which adds to the calcitic composition of the marl. Sloughs, or free-flowing channels of water, develop in between sawgrass prairies. Sloughs are about deeper than sawgrass marshes, and may stay flooded for at least 11 months out of the year and sometimes multiple years in a row. Aquatic animals such as turtles, alligators, snakes, and fish thrive in sloughs; they usually feed on aquatic invertebrates. Submerged and floating plants grow here, such as bladderwort ('' Utricularia''), waterlily ('' Nymphaeaceae''), and spatterdock (''
Nuphar lutea ''Nuphar lutea'', the yellow water-lily, brandy-bottle, or spadderdock, is an aquatic plant of the family ''Nymphaeaceae'', native to northern temperate and some subtropical regions of Europe, northwest Africa, western Asia, North America, and ...
''). Major sloughs in the Everglades system include the Shark River Slough flowing out to Florida Bay, Lostmans River Slough bordering The Big Cypress, and Taylor Slough in the eastern Everglades. Wet prairies are slightly elevated like sawgrass marshes, but with greater plant diversity. The surface is covered in water only three to seven months of the year, and the water is, on average, shallow at only deep. When flooded, the marl can support a variety of water plants. Solution holes, or deep pits where the limestone has worn away, may remain flooded even when the prairies are dry, and they support aquatic invertebrates such as
crayfish Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans belonging to the clade Astacidea, which also contains lobsters. In some locations, they are also known as crawfish, craydids, crawdaddies, crawdads, freshwater lobsters, mountain lobsters, rock lobsters, m ...
and snails, and larval amphibians which feed young wading birds. These regions tend to border between sloughs and sawgrass marshes. Alligators have created a niche in wet prairies. With their claws and snouts they dig at low spots and create ponds free of vegetation that remain submerged throughout the dry season. Alligator holes are integral to the survival of aquatic invertebrates, turtles, fish, small mammals, and birds during extended drought periods. The alligators then feed upon some of the animals that come to the hole.


Tropical hardwood hammock

Small islands of trees growing on land raised between and above sloughs and prairies are called tropical hardwood hammocks. They may range from one (4,000 m2) to ten acres (40,000 m2) in area, and appear in freshwater sloughs, sawgrass prairies, or pineland. Hammocks are slightly elevated on limestone plateaus risen several inches above the surrounding peat, or they may grow on land that has been unharmed by deep peat fires. Hardwood hammocks exhibit a mixture of subtropical and hardwood trees, such as Southern live oak (''
Quercus virginiana ''Quercus virginiana'', also known as the southern live oak, is an evergreen oak tree endemic to the Southeastern United States. Though many other species are loosely called live oak, the southern live oak is particularly iconic of the Old Sou ...
''), gumbo limbo ('' Bursera simaruba''), royal palm (''
Roystonea ''Roystonea'' is a genus of eleven species of monoecious palms, native to the Caribbean Islands, and the adjacent coasts of the United States (Florida), Central America and northern South America. Commonly known as the royal palms, the genus wa ...
''), and bustic ('' Dipholis salicifolia'') that grow in very dense clumps. Near the base, sharp saw palmettos ('' Serenoa repens'') flourish, making the hammocks very difficult for people to penetrate, though small mammals, reptiles and amphibians find these islands an ideal habitat. Water in sloughs flows around the islands, creating
moat A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that is dug and surrounds a castle, fortification, building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive ...
s. Although some ecosystems are maintained and promoted by fire, hammocks may take decades or centuries to recover. The moats around the hammocks protect the trees. The trees are limited in height by weather factors such as frost, lightning, and wind; the majority of trees in hammocks grow no higher than .


Pineland

Some of the driest land in the Everglades is pineland (also called pine rockland) ecosystem, located in the highest part of the Everglades with little to no hydroperiod. Some floors, however, may have flooded solution holes or puddles for a few months at a time. The most significant feature of the pineland is the single species of South Florida slash pine (''
Pinus elliottii ''Pinus elliottii'', commonly known as slash pine,Family, P. P. (1990). Pinus elliottii Engelm. slash pine. ''Silvics of North America: Conifers'', (654), 338. is a conifer tree native to the Southeastern United States. Slash pine is named after ...
''). Pineland communities require fire to maintain them, and the trees have several adaptations that simultaneously promote and resist fire.U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan: Pine rockland
", Retrieved May 3, 2008.
The sandy floor of the pine forest is covered with dry pine needles that are highly flammable. South Florida slash pines are insulated by their bark to protect them from heat. Fire eliminates competing vegetation on the forest floor, and opens pine cones to germinate seeds. A period without significant fire can turn pineland into a hardwood hammock as larger trees overtake the slash pines. The
understory In forestry and ecology, understory (American English), or understorey ( Commonwealth English), also known as underbrush or undergrowth, includes plant life growing beneath the forest canopy without penetrating it to any great extent, but ...
shrubs in pine rocklands are the fire-resistant saw palmetto ('' Serenoa repens''), cabbage palm (''
Sabal palmetto ''Sabal palmetto'' (, '' SAY-bəl''), also known as cabbage palm, cabbage palmetto, sabal palm, blue palmetto, Carolina palmetto, common palmetto, Garfield's tree, and swamp cabbage, is one of 15 species of palmetto palm. It is native to the ...
''), and West Indian lilac ('' Tetrazygia bicolor''). The most diverse group of plants in the pine community are the herbs, of which there are two dozen species. These plants contain
tuber Tubers are a type of enlarged structure used as storage organs for nutrients in some plants. They are used for the plant's perennation (survival of the winter or dry months), to provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing ...
s and other mechanisms that allow them to sprout quickly after being charred. Prior to urban development of the South Florida region, pine rocklands covered approximately in Miami-Dade County. Within Everglades National Park, of pine forests are protected, but outside the park, of pine communities remained as of 1990, averaging in area. The misunderstanding of the role of fire also played a part in the disappearance of pine forests in the area, as natural fires were put out and pine rocklands transitioned into hardwood hammocks. Prescribed fires occur in Everglades National Park in pine rocklands every three to seven years.


Cypress

Cypress swamps can be found throughout the Everglades, but the largest covers most of Collier County. The Big Cypress Swamp is located to the west of the sawgrass prairies and sloughs, and it is commonly called "The Big Cypress".George, p. 26. The name refers to its area rather than the height or diameter of the trees; at its most conservative estimate, the swamp measures , but the hydrologic boundary of The Big Cypress can be calculated at over . Most of The Big Cypress sits atop a bedrock covered by a thinner layer of limestone. The limestone underneath the Big Cypress contains
quartz Quartz is a hard, crystalline mineral composed of silica (silicon dioxide). The atoms are linked in a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall chemical fo ...
, which creates sandy soil that hosts a variety of vegetation different from what is found in other areas of the Everglades. The basin for The Big Cypress receives on average of water in the wet season. Although The Big Cypress is the largest growth of cypress swamps in South Florida, cypress swamps can be found near the Atlantic Coastal Ridge and between Lake Okeechobee and the Eastern flatwoods, as well as in sawgrass marshes. Cypresses are deciduous
conifer Conifers are a group of cone-bearing seed plants, a subset of gymnosperms. Scientifically, they make up the division Pinophyta (), also known as Coniferophyta () or Coniferae. The division contains a single extant class, Pinopsida. All ex ...
s that are uniquely adapted to thrive in flooded conditions, with buttressed trunks and root projections that protrude out of the water, called "knees".
Bald cypress ''Taxodium distichum'' (bald cypress, swamp cypress; french: cyprès chauve; ''cipre'' in Louisiana) is a deciduous conifer in the family Cupressaceae. It is native to the southeastern United States. Hardy and tough, this tree adapts to a wide r ...
trees grow in formations with the tallest and thickest trunks in the center, rooted in the deepest peat. As the peat thins out, cypresses grow smaller and thinner, giving the small forest the appearance of a dome from the outside. They also grow in strands, slightly elevated on a ridge of limestone bordered on either side by sloughs. Other hardwood trees can be found in cypress domes, such as red maple, swamp bay, and pop ash. If cypresses are removed, the hardwoods take over, and the ecosystem is recategorized as a mixed swamp forest.


Mangrove and Coastal prairie

Eventually the water from Lake Okeechobee and The Big Cypress makes its way to the ocean. Mangrove trees are well adapted to the transitional zone of
brackish Brackish water, sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) and fresh water together, as in estuar ...
water where fresh and salt water meet. The estuarine ecosystem of the
Ten Thousand Islands The Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of southwest Florida, between Cape Romano (at the south end of Marco Island) and the mouth of the Lostmans River. Some of the islands are high spots on a subme ...
, which is comprised almost completely of mangrove forests, covers almost . In the wet season fresh water pours out into Florida Bay, and sawgrass begins to grow closer to the coastline. In the dry season, and particularly in extended periods of drought, the salt water creeps inland into the coastal prairie, an ecosystem that buffers the freshwater marshes by absorbing sea water. Mangrove trees begin to grow in fresh water ecosystems when the salt water goes far enough inland. There are three species of trees that are considered mangroves: red (''
Rhizophora mangle ''Rhizophora mangle'', the red mangrove, is distributed in estuarine ecosystems throughout the tropics. Its viviparous "seeds", in actuality called propagules, become fully mature plants before dropping off the parent tree. These are dispersed b ...
''), black (''
Avicennia germinans ''Avicennia germinans'', the black mangrove, is a shrub or small tree growing up to 12 meters (39 feet) in the acanthus family, Acanthaceae. It grows in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, ...
''), and white (''
Laguncularia racemosa ''Laguncularia racemosa'', the white mangrove, is a species of flowering plant in the leadwood tree family, Combretaceae. It is native to the coasts of western Africa from Senegal to Cameroon, the Atlantic Coast of the Americas from Bermuda an ...
''), although all are from different families. All grow in oxygen-poor soil, can survive drastic water level changes, and are tolerant of salt, brackish, and fresh water. All three mangrove species are integral to coastline protection during severe storms. Red mangroves have the farthest-reaching roots, trapping sediments that help build coastlines after and between storms. All three types of trees absorb the energy of waves and
storm surge A storm surge, storm flood, tidal surge, or storm tide is a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water commonly associated with low-pressure weather systems, such as cyclones. It is measured as the rise in water level above the ...
s. Everglades mangroves also serve as nurseries for
crustaceans Crustaceans (Crustacea, ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as decapods, seed shrimp, branchiopods, fish lice, krill, remipedes, isopods, barnacles, copepods, amphipods and mantis shrimp. The crustacean group ...
and fish, and rookeries for birds. The region supports Tortugas pink shrimp ('' Farfantepenaeus duorarum'') and stone crab ('' Menippe mercenaria'') industries; between 80 and 90 percent of commercially harvested crustacean species in Florida's salt waters are born or spend time near the Everglades.Ripple, p. 80.


Florida Bay

Much of the coast and the inner estuaries are built of mangroves; there is no border between the coastal marshes and the bay. Thus the marine ecosystems in
Florida Bay Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland (the Florida Everglades) and the Florida Keys in the United States. It is a large, shallow estuary that while connected to the Gulf of Mexico, has limited exchange of ...
are considered to be a part of the Everglades watershed and one of the ecosystems connected to and affected by the Everglades as a whole. More than of Florida Bay is protected by
Everglades National Park Everglades National Park is an American national park that protects the southern twenty percent of the original Everglades in Florida. The park is the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and the largest wilderness of any kind east ...
, representing the largest body of water in the park boundaries. There are approximately 100 keys in Florida Bay, many of which are mangrove forests. The fresh water coming into Florida Bay from the Everglades creates perfect conditions for vast beds of turtle grass and algae formations that are the foundation for animal life in the bay.
Sea turtle Sea turtles (superfamily Chelonioidea), sometimes called marine turtles, are reptiles of the order Testudines and of the suborder Cryptodira. The seven existing species of sea turtles are the flatback, green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhea ...
s and
manatee Manatees (family Trichechidae, genus ''Trichechus'') are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. There are three accepted living species of Trichechidae, representing three of the four living species ...
s eat the grass, while invertebrate animals, such as worms, clams and other mollusks eat the algae formations and microscopic plankton. Female sea turtles return annually to nest on the shore, and manatees spend the winter months in the warmer water of the bay. Sea grasses also serve to stabilize the sea beds and protect shorelines from erosion by absorbing energy from waves.


History


Native Americans

Humans arrived in the Florida peninsula approximately 15,000 years ago. Paleo-Indians came to Florida probably following large game that included
giant sloth Ground sloths are a diverse group of extinct sloths in the mammalian superorder Xenarthra. The term is used to refer to all extinct sloths because of the large size of the earliest forms discovered, compared to existing tree sloths. The Caribbea ...
s,
saber-toothed cat Machairodontinae is an extinct subfamily of carnivoran mammals of the family Felidae (true cats). They were found in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, and Europe from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, living from about 16 million unt ...
s, and spectacled bears. They found an arid landscape that supported plants and animals adapted for desert conditions. However, 6,500 years ago, climate changes brought a wetter landscape; large animals became extinct in Florida, and the Paleo-Indians slowly adapted and became the Archaic peoples. They conformed to the environmental changes, and created many tools with the various resources available. During the Late Archaic period, the climate became wetter again, and approximately 3000 BCE the rise of water tables allowed an increase in population and cultural activity. Florida Indians developed into three distinct but similar cultures that were named for the bodies of water near where they were located: Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee, and Glades.


Calusa and Tequesta

From the Glades peoples, two major nations emerged in the area: the
Calusa The Calusa ( ) were a Native American people of Florida's southwest coast. Calusa society developed from that of archaic peoples of the Everglades region. Previous indigenous cultures had lived in the area for thousands of years. At the time of ...
and the
Tequesta The Tequesta (also Tekesta, Tegesta, Chequesta, Vizcaynos) were a Native American tribe. At the time of first European contact they occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida. They had infrequent contact with Europeans a ...
. The Calusa was the largest and most powerful nation in South Florida. It controlled fifty villages located on Florida's west coast, around Lake Okeechobee, and on the
Florida Keys The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost part of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and ...
. Most Calusa villages were located at the mouths of rivers or on key islands. The Calusa were hunter-gatherers who lived on small game, fish, turtles, alligators, shellfish, and various plants. Most of their tools were made of bone or teeth, although sharpened reeds were also effective for hunting or war. Calusa weapons consisted of bows and arrows,
atlatl A spear-thrower, spear-throwing lever or ''atlatl'' (pronounced or ; Nahuatl ''ahtlatl'' ) is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart or javelin-throwing, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to store ...
s, and spears. Canoes were used for transportation, and South Florida tribes often canoed through the Everglades, but rarely lived in them. Canoe trips to Cuba were also common.Griffin, p. 171. Estimated numbers of Calusa at the beginning of the Spanish occupation ranged from 4,000 to 7,000. The society declined in power and population; by 1697 their number was estimated to be about 1,000. In the early 18th century, the Calusa came under attack from the
Yamasee The Yamasees (also spelled Yamassees or Yemassees) were a multiethnic confederation of Native Americans who lived in the coastal region of present-day northern coastal Georgia near the Savannah River and later in northeastern Florida. The Yamas ...
to the north. They asked the Spanish for refuge in Cuba, where almost 200 died of illness. Soon they were relocated again to the Florida Keys. Second in power and number to the Calusa in South Florida were the
Tequesta The Tequesta (also Tekesta, Tegesta, Chequesta, Vizcaynos) were a Native American tribe. At the time of first European contact they occupied an area along the southeastern Atlantic coast of Florida. They had infrequent contact with Europeans a ...
. They occupied the southeastern portion of the lower peninsula in modern-day Dade and Broward counties. Like the Calusa, the Tequesta societies centered on the mouths of rivers. Their main village was probably on the Miami River or Little River. Spanish depictions of the Tequesta state that they were greatly feared by sailors, who suspected them of torturing and killing survivors of shipwrecks. With an increasing European presence in south Florida, Native Americans from the Keys and other areas began increasing their trips to Cuba. Official permission for the immigration of Native Americans from the Florida Keys was granted by Cuban officials in 1704. Spanish priests attempted to set up missions in 1743, but noted that the Tequesta were under assault from a neighboring tribe. When only 30 members were left, they were removed to Havana. A British surveyor in 1770 described multiple deserted villages in the region where the Tequesta lived. Common descriptions of Native Americans in Florida by 1820 used only the term "Seminoles".


Seminole

Following the demise of the Calusa and Tequesta, Native Americans in southern Florida were referred to as "Spanish Indians" in the 1740s, probably due to their friendlier relations with Spain. The Creek invaded the Florida peninsula; they conquered and assimilated what was left of pre-Columbian societies into the Creek Confederacy. They were joined by remnant Indian groups and formed the Seminole, a new tribe, by
ethnogenesis Ethnogenesis (; ) is "the formation and development of an ethnic group". This can originate by group self-identification or by outside identification. The term ''ethnogenesis'' was originally a mid-19th century neologism that was later introd ...
. The Seminole originally settled in the northern portion of the territory. In addition, free blacks and fugitive
slaves Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...
made their way to Florida, where Spain had promised slaves freedom and arms if they converted to Catholicism and pledged loyalty to Spain. These African Americans gradually created communities near those of the Seminole, and became known as the
Black Seminoles The Black Seminoles, or Afro-Seminoles are Native American-Africans associated with the Seminole people in Florida and Oklahoma. They are mostly blood descendants of the Seminole people, free Africans, and escaped slaves, who allied with Seminole ...
. The groups acted as allies. In 1817,
Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was an American lawyer, planter, general, and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, he gained fame as ...
invaded Florida to hasten its annexation to the United States, in what became known as the
First Seminole War The Seminole Wars (also known as the Florida Wars) were three related military conflicts in Florida between the United States and the Seminole, citizens of a Native American nation which formed in the region during the early 1700s. Hostilities ...
. After Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, conflicts between settlers and the Seminole increased as the former tried to acquire lands. The
Second Seminole War The Second Seminole War, also known as the Florida War, was a conflict from 1835 to 1842 in Florida between the United States and groups collectively known as Seminoles, consisting of Native Americans and Black Indians. It was part of a ser ...
lasted from 1835 to 1842, and afterward, the US forcibly removed about 3,000 Seminole and 800 Black Seminole to
Indian Territory The Indian Territory and the Indian Territories are terms that generally described an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land as a sovereign i ...
(now Oklahoma), west of the Mississippi River. Many others died in the war. Conflict broke out again in the
Third Seminole War The Seminole Wars (also known as the Florida Wars) were three related military conflicts in Florida between the United States and the Seminole, citizens of a Native American nation which formed in the region during the early 1700s. Hostilities ...
from 1855 to 1859, when a few hundred Seminole fought off US forces from the swamps of the Everglades. The US finally decided to leave them alone, as they could not dislodge them even after this protracted and expensive warfare. By 1913, the Seminole in the Everglades numbered no more than 325. They made a living by hunting and trading with white settlers, and raised domesticated animals. The Seminole made their villages in hardwood hammocks or pinelands, had diets of
hominy Hominy (Spanish: maíz molido; literally meaning "milled corn") is a food produced from dried maize (corn) kernels that have been treated with an alkali, in a process called nixtamalization ( is the Nahuatl word for "hominy"). "Lye hominy" is a ...
and coontie roots, fish, turtles, venison, and small game. Their villages were not large, due to the limited size of the hammocks. Between the end of the last Seminole War and 1930, the people lived in relative isolation from the majority culture. The construction of the Tamiami Trail, beginning in 1928 and spanning the region from
Tampa Tampa () is a city on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. state of Florida. The city's borders include the north shore of Tampa Bay and the east shore of Old Tampa Bay. Tampa is the largest city in the Tampa Bay area and the seat of Hillsborough Count ...
to Miami, altered their ways of life. Some began to work in local farms, ranches, and souvenir stands. Some of the people who interacted more with European Americans began to move to reservations in the 1940s. These were their bases for reorganizing their government and they became federally recognized in 1957 as the Seminole Tribe of Florida. People who kept more traditional ways had settlements along the Tamiami Trail and tended to speak the
Mikasuki language The Mikasuki, Hitchiti-Mikasuki, or Hitchiti language is a language or a pair of dialects or closely related languages that belong to the Muskogean languages family. Mikasuki was spoken by around 290 people in southern Florida. Along with the Co ...
. They later were federally recognized in 1962 as the
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida is a federally recognized Native American tribe in the U.S. state of Florida. They were part of the Seminole nation until the mid-20th century, when they organized as an independent tribe, receiving fed ...
. As metropolitan areas in South Florida began to grow, the two groups were closely associated with the Everglades. They struggled to maintain privacy while serving as tourist attractions. They earned money by wrestling alligators and selling craftworks. , the Seminole Tribe of Florida had five reservations, and the lands of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians were collectively considered a sixth reservation. The two tribes have each developed
casino A casino is a facility for certain types of gambling. Casinos are often built near or combined with hotels, resorts, restaurants, retail shopping, cruise ships, and other tourist attractions. Some casinos are also known for hosting live entertai ...
gaming on some of their properties to generate revenue for support, services and economic development.


Exploration

The military penetration of southern Florida offered the opportunity to map a poorly understood and largely unknown part of the country. An 1840 expedition into the Everglades offered the first printed account for the general public to read about the Everglades. The anonymous writer described the terrain the party was crossing:
No country that I have ever heard of bears any resemblance to it; it seems like a vast sea filled with grass and green trees, and expressly intended as a retreat for the rascally Indian, from which the white man would never seek to drive them.
The land seemed to inspire extreme reactions of both wonder or hatred. During the Second Seminole War an army surgeon wrote, "It is in fact a most hideous region to live in, a perfect paradise for Indians, alligators, serpents, frogs, and every other kind of loathsome reptile." A survey team led by railroad executive James Edmundson Ingraham explored the area in 1892. In 1897, explorer Hugh Willoughby spent eight days canoeing with a party from the mouth of the Harney River to the Miami River. He sent his observations to the '' New Orleans Times-Democrat''. Willoughby described the water as healthy and wholesome, with numerous springs, and 10,000 
alligator An alligator is a large reptile in the Crocodilia order in the genus ''Alligator'' of the family Alligatoridae. The two extant species are the American alligator (''A. mississippiensis'') and the Chinese alligator (''A. sinensis''). Additional ...
s "more or less" in Lake Okeechobee. The party encountered thousands of birds near the Shark River, "killing hundreds, but they continued to return". Willoughby pointed out that much of the rest of the country had been explored and mapped except for this part of Florida, writing, "(w)e have a tract of land one hundred and thirty miles long and seventy miles wide that is as much unknown to the white man as the heart of Africa."


Drainage

A national push for expansion and progress in the United States occurred in the later part of the 19th century, which stimulated interest in draining the Everglades for agricultural use. According to historians, "From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, the United States went through a period in which wetland removal was not questioned. Indeed, it was considered the proper thing to do." Draining the Everglades was suggested as early as 1837, and a resolution in
Congress A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties, or other groups. The term originated in Late Middle English to denote an encounter (meeting of ...
was passed in 1842 that prompted
Secretary of Treasury The United States secretary of the treasury is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, and is the chief financial officer of the federal government of the United States. The secretary of the treasury serves as the principal a ...
Robert J. Walker to request those with experience in the Everglades to give their opinion on the possibility of drainage. Many officers who had served in the Seminole Wars favored the idea. In 1850 Congress passed a law that gave several states
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free ( anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. T ...
s within their state boundaries. The Swamp and Overflowed Lands Act ensured that the state would be responsible for funding the attempts at developing wetlands into farmlands. Florida quickly formed a committee to consolidate grants to pay for any attempts, though the
Civil War A civil war or intrastate war is a war between organized groups within the same state (or country). The aim of one side may be to take control of the country or a region, to achieve independence for a region, or to change government policie ...
and
Reconstruction Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
halted progress until after 1877. After the Civil War, a state agency called the Internal Improvement Fund (IIF), whose purpose was to improve Florida's roads, canals, and rail lines, was discovered to be deeply in debt. The IIF found a Pennsylvania real estate developer named
Hamilton Disston Hamilton Disston (August 23, 1844 – April 30, 1896)"He Died Without Warning", ''The Washington Post'' (May 1, 1896). was an industrialist and real-estate developer who purchased 4 million acres (16,000 km²) of Florida land in 1881, an ar ...
interested in implementing plans to drain the land for agriculture. Disston purchased of land for $1 million in 1881, and he began constructing canals near St. Cloud. At first, the canals seemed to work in lowering the water levels in the wetlands surrounding the rivers. They were effective in lowering the groundwater, but it became apparent that their capacity was insufficient for the wet season. Although Disston's canals did not drain well, his purchase primed the economy of Florida. It made news and attracted tourists and land buyers. Within four years property values doubled, and the population increased significantly. The IIF was able to invest in development projects due to Disston's purchase, and an opportunity to improve transportation arose when oil tycoon
Henry Flagler Henry Morrison Flagler (January 2, 1830 – May 20, 1913) was an American industrialist and a founder of Standard Oil, which was first based in Ohio. He was also a key figure in the development of the Atlantic coast of Florida and founder ...
began purchasing land and building rail lines along the east coast of Florida, as far south as Palm Beach in 1893. Along the way he built resort hotels, transforming territorial outposts into tourist destinations. The land bordering the rail lines was developed as citrus farms. By 1896 the rail line had been extended to
Biscayne Bay Biscayne Bay () is a lagoon with characteristics of an estuary located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida. The northern end of the lagoon is surrounded by the densely developed heart of the Miami metropolitan area while the southern end is l ...
.Bramson, Seth (1998). "A Tale of Three Henrys", ''The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts'', 23, Florida Theme Issue, pp. 113–143. Three months after the first train had arrived, the residents of Miami voted to incorporate the town. Miami became a prime destination for extremely wealthy people after the Royal Palm Hotel was opened. During the 1904
gubernatorial A governor is an administrative leader and head of a polity or political region, ranking under the head of state and in some cases, such as governors-general, as the head of state's official representative. Depending on the type of political r ...
race, the strongest candidate, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, a populist Democrat from Duval County, promoted draining the Everglades. He called the future of South Florida the "Empire of the Everglades". Soon after his successful election, he began work to "drain that abominable pestilence-ridden swamp", and pushed the Florida legislature to form a group of commissioners to oversee reclamation of flooded lands. In 1907 they established the Everglades Drainage District and began to study how to build the most effective canals, and how to fund them. Governor Broward ran for the
U.S. Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the House of Representatives being the lower chamber. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States. The composition and pow ...
in 1908 but lost. Broward was paid by land developer Richard J. Bolles to tour the state to promote drainage. Elected to the Senate in 1910, Broward died before he could take office. Land in the Everglades was being sold for $15 an acre a month after Broward died. Meanwhile, Henry Flagler continued to build railway stations at towns as soon as the populations warranted them.


Growth of urban areas

With the construction of canals, newly reclaimed Everglades land was promoted throughout the United States. Land developers sold 20,000 lots in a few months in 1912. Advertisements promised within eight weeks of arrival, a farmer could be making a living, although for many it took at least two months to clear the land. Some tried burning off the sawgrass or other vegetation, only to learn that the peat continued to burn. Animals and tractors used for plowing got mired in the muck and were useless. When the muck dried, it turned to a fine black powder and created dust storms. Although initially crops sprouted quickly and lushly, they just as quickly wilted and died, seemingly without reason. The increasing population in towns near the Everglades hunted in the area. Raccoons and otters were the most widely hunted for their skins. Hunting often went unchecked; in one trip, a Lake Okeechobee hunter killed 250 alligators and 172 otters.
Water bird A water bird, alternatively waterbird or aquatic bird, is a bird that lives on or around water. In some definitions, the term ''water bird'' is especially applied to birds in freshwater ecosystems, although others make no distinction from seab ...
s were a particular target of plume hunting. Bird feathers were used in women's hats in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1886, 5 million birds were estimated to be killed for their feathers. They were shot usually in the spring, when their feathers were colored for mating and nesting. The plumes, or aigrettes, as they were called in the millinery business, sold for $32 an ounce in 1915— the price of gold.McCally, p. 117. Millinery was a $17 million a year industry that motivated plume harvesters to lay in watch of nests of
egret Egrets ( ) are herons, generally long-legged wading birds, that have white or buff plumage, developing fine plumes (usually milky white) during the breeding season. Egrets are not a biologically distinct group from herons and have the same buil ...
s and many colored birds during the nesting season, shoot the parents with small-bore rifles, and leave the chicks to starve. Plumes from Everglades wading birds could be found in Havana, New York City, London, and Paris. Hunters could collect plumes from a hundred birds on a good day. Rum-runners used the Everglades as a hiding spot during Prohibition; it was so vast there were never enough law enforcement officers to patrol it. The arrival of the railroad, and the discovery that adding trace elements like
copper Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu (from la, cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish- ...
was the remedy for crops sprouting and dying quickly, soon created a population boom. New towns such as Moore Haven, Clewiston, and Belle Glade sprouted like the crops.
Sugarcane Sugarcane or sugar cane is a species of (often hybrid) tall, perennial grass (in the genus '' Saccharum'', tribe Andropogoneae) that is used for sugar production. The plants are 2–6 m (6–20 ft) tall with stout, jointed, fibrous stalks ...
became the primary crop grown in South Florida. Miami experienced a second real estate boom that earned a developer in Coral Gables $150 million. Undeveloped land north of Miami sold for $30,600 an acre. In 1925, Miami newspapers published editions weighing over , most of it in real estate advertising. Waterfront property was the most highly valued. Mangrove trees were cut down and replaced with palm trees to improve the view. Acres of South Florida slash pine were cleared. Some of the pine was for lumber, but most of the pine forests in Dade County were cleared for development.


Flood control

Two catastrophic hurricanes in 1926 and
1928 Events January * January – British bacteriologist Frederick Griffith reports the results of Griffith's experiment, indirectly proving the existence of DNA. * January 1 – Eastern Bloc emigration and defection: Boris Bazhanov, J ...
caused Lake Okeechobee to breach its levees, killing thousands of people. The government began to focus on the control of floods rather than drainage. The Okeechobee Flood Control District was created in 1929, financed by both state and federal funds. President
Herbert Hoover Herbert Clark Hoover (August 10, 1874 – October 20, 1964) was an American politician who served as the 31st president of the United States from 1929 to 1933 and a member of the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party, holding o ...
toured the towns affected by the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane and ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to assist the communities surrounding the lake. Between 1930 and 1937 a dike long was built around the southern edge of the lake. Control of the Hoover Dike and the waters of
Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee (), also known as Florida's Inland Sea, is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Florida. It is the tenth largest natural freshwater lake among the 50 states of the United States and the second-largest natural freshw ...
was delegated to federal powers: the United States declared legal limits of the lake to between . A massive canal was also constructed wide and deep through the
Caloosahatchee River The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long.U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map, accessed April 18, 2011 It dr ...
; whenever the lake rose too high, the excess water left through the canal. More than $20 million was spent on the entire project. Sugarcane production soared after the dike and canal were built. The populations of the small towns surrounding the lake jumped from 3,000 to 9,000 after World War II. Immediately, the effects of the Hoover Dike were seen. An extended drought occurred in the 1930s; with the wall preventing water from leaving Lake Okeechobee and canals and ditches removing other water, the Everglades became parched. Peat turned to dust. Salt ocean water intruded into Miami's wells; when the city brought in an expert to explain why, he discovered that the water in the Everglades was the area's groundwater—here, it appeared on the surface. In 1939, a million acres (4,000 km2) of Everglades burned, and the black clouds of peat and sawgrass fires hung over Miami. Scientists who took soil samples before draining did not take into account that the organic composition of peat and muck in the Everglades make it prone to soil subsidence when it becomes dry. Naturally occurring bacteria in Everglades peat and muck assist with the process of decomposition under water, which is generally very slow, partially due to the low levels of
dissolved oxygen Oxygen saturation (symbol SO2) is a relative measure of the concentration of oxygen that is dissolved or carried in a given medium as a proportion of the maximal concentration that can be dissolved in that medium at the given temperature. It ca ...
. When water levels became so low that peat and muck were at the surface, the bacteria interacted with much higher levels of oxygen in the air, rapidly breaking down the soil. In some places, homes had to be moved to stilts and of soil was lost.


Everglades National Park

The idea of a national park for the Everglades was pitched in 1928, when a Miami land developer named Ernest F. Coe established the Everglades Tropical National Park Association. It had enough support to be declared a national park by Congress in 1934. It took another 13 years to be dedicated on December 6, 1947. One month before the dedication of the park, a former editor from ''
The Miami Herald The ''Miami Herald'' is an American daily newspaper owned by the McClatchy Company and headquartered in Doral, Florida, a city in western Miami-Dade County and the Miami metropolitan area, several miles west of Downtown Miami.Marjory Stoneman Douglas Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, author, women's suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for de ...
released her first book titled '' The Everglades: River of Grass''. After researching the region for five years, she described the history and ecology of South Florida in great detail. She characterized the Everglades as a river instead of a stagnant swamp. The last chapter was titled "The Eleventh Hour" and warned that the Everglades were dying, although it could be reversed.


Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project

The same year the park was dedicated, two hurricanes and the wet season caused to fall on South Florida. Although there were no human casualties, agricultural interests lost approximately $59 million (equivalent to $ million in ). In 1948, Congress approved the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control and Other Purposes (C&SF), which divided the Everglades into basins. In the northern Everglades were Water Conservation Areas (WCAs), and the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) bordering to the south of Lake Okeechobee. In the southern Everglades was Everglades National Park. Levees and pumping stations bordered each WCA, and released water in dryer times or removed it and pumped it to the ocean in times of flood. The WCAs took up approximately 37 percent of the original Everglades. The C&SF constructed over of canals, and hundreds of pumping stations and levees within three decades. During the 1950s and 1960s the Miami metropolitan area grew four times as fast as the rest of the nation. Between 1940 and 1965, 6 million people moved to South Florida: 1,000 people moved to Miami every week. Developed areas between the mid-1950s and the late 1960s quadrupled. Much of the water reclaimed from the Everglades was sent to newly developed areas.


Everglades Agricultural Area

The C&SF established for the Everglades Agricultural Area—27 percent of the Everglades prior to development. In the late 1920s, agricultural experiments indicated that adding large amounts of manganese sulfate to Everglades muck produced a profitable harvest for vegetables. The primary cash crop in the EAA is sugarcane, though sod, beans, lettuce, celery, and rice are also grown. Fields in the EAA are typically , bordered by canals on two sides, that are connected to larger canals where water is pumped in or out depending on the needs of the crops. The fertilizers used on vegetables, along with high concentrations of
nitrogen Nitrogen is the chemical element with the symbol N and atomic number 7. Nitrogen is a nonmetal and the lightest member of group 15 of the periodic table, often called the pnictogens. It is a common element in the universe, estimated at sevent ...
and
phosphorus Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element on Ea ...
that are the byproduct of decayed soil necessary for sugarcane production, were pumped into WCAs south of the EAA. The introduction of large amounts of these chemicals provided opportunities for exotic plants to take hold in the Everglades. One of the defining characteristics of natural Everglades ecology is its ability to support itself in a nutrient-poor environment, and the introduction of fertilizers began to alter the plant life in the region.


Jetport proposition

A turning point came for development in the Everglades at the proposal in the late 1960s for an expanded airport, after
Miami International Airport Miami International Airport , also known as MIA and historically as Wilcox Field, is the primary airport serving the greater Miami metropolitan area with over 1,000 daily flights to 167 domestic and international destinations, including most co ...
outgrew its capacities. The new jetport was planned to be larger than O'Hare, Dulles,
JFK John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK and the nickname Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination ...
, and
LAX Los Angeles International Airport , commonly referred to as LAX (with each letter pronounced individually), is the primary international airport serving Los Angeles, California and its surrounding metropolitan area. LAX is located in the W ...
airports combined, and the chosen location was north of Everglades National Park. The first sentence of the U.S. Department of Interior study of the environmental impact of the jetport read, "Development of the proposed jetport and its attendant facilities ... will inexorably destroy the south Florida ecosystem and thus the Everglades National Park". When studies indicated the proposed jetport would create of raw sewage a day and of jet engine pollutants a year, the project met staunch opposition. ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid ...
'' called it a "blueprint for disaster", and
Wisconsin Wisconsin () is a state in the upper Midwestern United States. Wisconsin is the 25th-largest state by total area and the 20th-most populous. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michi ...
senator Gaylord Nelson wrote to President
Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913April 22, 1994) was the 37th president of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. A member of the Republican Party, he previously served as a representative and senator from California and was ...
voicing his opposition: "It is a test of whether or not we are really committed in this country to protecting our environment." Governor
Claude Kirk Claude Roy Kirk Jr. (January 7, 1926 – September 28, 2011) was the 36th governor of the U.S. state of Florida (1967–1971). He was the first Republican governor of Florida since Reconstruction. Early life Kirk was born in San Bernardino, C ...
withdrew his support for the project, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas was persuaded at 79 years old to go on tour to give hundreds of speeches against it. Nixon instead proposed
Big Cypress National Preserve Big Cypress National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in South Florida, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami on the Atlantic coastal plain. The Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, becam ...
, announcing it in the Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program. Although construction of only one runway was completed, the remains of the Everglades Jetport was later opened as the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport and is sometimes used as an aviation training facility.


Restoration


Kissimmee River

The Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project's final construction project was straightening the
Kissimmee River The Kissimmee River is a river in south-central Florida, United States that forms the north part of the Everglades wetlands area. The river begins at East Lake Tohopekaliga south of Orlando, flowing south through Lake Kissimmee into the large ...
, a meandering -long river that was drained to make way for grazing land and agriculture. The C&SF started building the C-38 canal in 1962 and the effects were seen almost immediately. Waterfowl, wading birds, and fish disappeared, prompting conservationists and sport fishers to demand the region be restored before the canal was finished in 1971. In general, C&SF projects had been criticized for being temporary fixes that ignored future consequences, costing billions of dollars with no end in sight. After Governor
Bob Graham Daniel Robert "Bob" Graham (born November 9, 1936) is an American lawyer, author, and politician who served as the 38th governor of Florida from 1979 to 1987 and a United States senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005. He is a member of the Dem ...
initiated the Save Our Everglades campaign in 1983, the first section of the canal was backfilled in 1986. Graham announced that by 2000 the Everglades would be restored as closely as possible to its pre-drainage state. The Kissimmee River Restoration project was approved by Congress in 1992. It is estimated that it will cost $578 million to convert only of the canal. The entire project was to be complete by 2011, yet , the project is "more than halfway complete" and the new completion date is 2020.


Water quality

Further problems with the environment arose when a vast algal bloom appeared in one-fifth of Lake Okeechobee in 1986, the same year
cattails ''Typha'' is a genus of about 30 species of monocotyledonous flowering plants in the family Typhaceae. These plants have a variety of common names, in British English as bulrush or reedmace, in American English as reed, cattail, or punks, in ...
were discovered overtaking sawgrass marshes in
Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife sanctuary is located west of Boynton Beach, in Palm Beach County, Florida. It is also known as Water Conservation Area 1 (WCA-1). It includes the most northern remnant ...
. Scientists discovered that
phosphorus Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element on Ea ...
, used as a fertilizer in the EAA, was flushed into canals and pumped back into the lake. When the lake drained, the phosphorus entered the water in the marshes, changing the nutrient levels. It kept periphyton from forming marl, one of two soils in the Everglades. The arrival of phosphorus allowed cattails to spread quickly. The cattails grew in dense mats—too thick for birds or alligators to nest in. It also dissolved oxygen in the peat, promoted algae, and prohibited the growth of native invertebrates on the bottom of the food chain. At the same time mercury was found in local fish at such high levels that consumption warnings were posted for fishermen. A
Florida panther The Florida panther is a North American cougar (''P. c. couguar'') population in South Florida. It lives in pinelands, tropical hardwood hammocks, and mixed freshwater swamp forests. It is known under a number of common names including Costa R ...
was found dead with levels of mercury high enough to kill a human.Lodge, pp. 231–233. Scientists found that power plants and incinerators using fossil fuels were expelling mercury into the atmosphere, and it fell as rain or dust during droughts. The naturally occurring bacteria that reduce sulfur in the Everglades ecosystem were transforming the mercury into
methylmercury Methylmercury (sometimes methyl mercury) is an organometallic cation with the formula . It is the simplest organomercury compound. Methylmercury is extremely toxic, and its derivatives are the major source of organic mercury for humans. It is ...
, and it was bioaccumulating through the food chain. Stricter emissions standards helped lower mercury coming from power plants and incinerators, which in turn lowered mercury levels found in animals, though they continue to be a concern. The Everglades Forever Act, introduced by Governor Lawton Chiles in 1994, was an attempt to legislate the lowering of phosphorus in Everglades waterways. The act put the
South Florida Water Management District The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is a regional governmental district that oversees water resources from Orlando to the Florida Keys. The mission of the SFWMD is to manage and protect water resources by balancing and improving ...
(SFWMD) and the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is the Florida government agency responsible for environmental protection. History By the mid-1960s, when the federal government was becoming increasingly involved in initiatives desi ...
(DEP) in charge of testing and enforcing low phosphorus levels: 10 parts per billion (ppb) (down from 500 ppb in the 1980s). The SFWMD built Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) near sugarcane fields where water leaving the EAA flows into ponds lined with lime rock and layers of peat and
calcareous Calcareous () is an adjective meaning "mostly or partly composed of calcium carbonate", in other words, containing lime or being chalky. The term is used in a wide variety of scientific disciplines. In zoology ''Calcareous'' is used as an adj ...
periphyton. Testing has shown this method to be more effective than previously anticipated, bringing levels from 80 ppb to 10 ppb.


Invasive species

As a center for trade and travel between the U.S., the Caribbean, and South America, South Florida is especially vulnerable to
invasive species An invasive species otherwise known as an alien is an introduced organism that becomes overpopulated and harms its new environment. Although most introduced species are neutral or beneficial with respect to other species, invasive species ad ...
, or species of plants and animals that adapt aggressively to conditions in the Everglades, allowing them to reproduce faster and grow larger than they would naturally in their native environments. Approximately 26% of all species of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals in South Florida are exotic—more than in any other part of the U.S.—and the region hosts one of the highest numbers of exotic plant species in the world. Controlling invasive species in 1,700,000 acres (6,900 km2) of infested land in South Florida costs authorities about $500 million a year.Florida Invaders
National Park Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Retrieved on February 3, 2010.
The Everglades hosts 1,392 exotic plant species actively reproducing in the region, outnumbering the 1,301 species considered native to South Florida. The melaleuca tree (''
Melaleuca quinquenervia ''Melaleuca quinquenervia'', commonly known as the broad-leaved paperbark, paper bark tea tree, punk tree or niaouli, is a small- to medium-sized tree of the myrtle family, Myrtaceae. It grows as a spreading tree up to tall, with its trunk cov ...
'') takes water in greater amounts than other trees. Melaleucas grow taller and more densely in the Everglades than in their native Australia, making them unsuitable as nesting areas for birds with wide wingspans. They also choke out native vegetation. More than $2 million has been spent on keeping them out of Everglades National Park. Brazilian pepper, or Florida holly ('' Schinus terebinthifolius''), has also wreaked havoc on the Everglades, exhibiting a tendency to spread rapidly and to crowd out native species of plants as well as to create inhospitable environments for native animals. It is especially difficult to eradicate and is readily propagated by birds, which eat its small red berries. The Brazilian pepper problem is not exclusive to the Everglades; neither is the
water hyacinth ''Pontederia crassipes'' (formerly ''Eichhornia crassipes''), commonly known as common water hyacinth is an aquatic plant native to South America, naturalized throughout the world, and often invasive outside its native range.Lygodium microphyllum ''Lygodium microphyllum'' (commonly known as, variously, climbing maidenhair fern, Old World climbing fern, small-leaf climbing fern, or snake fern) is a climbing fern originating in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia. It is ...
'') may be causing the most harm to restoration as it blankets areas thickly, making it impossible for animals to pass through. It also climbs up trees and creates "fire ladders", allowing parts of the trees to burn that would otherwise remain unharmed. Many pets have escaped or been released into the Everglades from the surrounding urban areas. Some find the conditions quite favorable and have established self-sustaining populations, competing for food and space with native animals. Many tropical fish have been released, but blue tilapias ('' Oreochromis aureus'') cause damage to shallow waterways by creating large nests and consuming aquatic plants that protect native young fish. Native to southern Asia, the Burmese python ('' Python molurus bivittatus'') is a relatively new invasive species in the Everglades. This species can grow up to long, and they compete with alligators for the top of the food chain. Florida wildlife officials speculate that escaped pythons have begun reproducing in an environment for which they are well-suited. In 2017 The South Florida Water Management District implemented the Python Elimination program, hoping to encourage the public to participate in the removal of the snakes by placing a cash reward per foot of python captured and euthanized with an additional wage pay and $200 per active nest found. In Everglades National Park alone, agents removed more than 2,000 Burmese pythons from the park . Federal authorities banned four species of exotic snakes, including the Burmese python, in 2012. The pythons are believed to be responsible for drastic decreases in the populations of some mammals within the park. In a 2015 study by the United States Geological Survey, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the University of Florida, 95 adult marsh rabbits were released and tracked in areas known to have invasive python populations. 11 months later, it was found that 77% of the rabbits that fell victim to predation, was due to pythons. Relationships like these are believed to be a reason for declining native predator populations such as the Florida Panther that has less than 500 remaining individuals in the wild. The invasive species that causes the most damage to bird populations is the cat ''(Felis catus)'', both domestic and feral. Cats that are let outside live close to suburban populations and have been estimated to number 640 per square mile. In such close numbers in historic migratory areas, they have devastating effects on migratory bird populations.


Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan

Although scientists made headway in decreasing mercury and phosphorus levels in water, the natural environment of South Florida continued to decline in the 1990s, and life in nearby cities reflected this downturn. To address the deterioration of the Miami metropolitan area, Governor Lawton Chiles commissioned a report on the
sustainability Specific definitions of sustainability are difficult to agree on and have varied in the literature and over time. The concept of sustainability can be used to guide decisions at the global, national, and individual levels (e.g. sustainable livin ...
of the area. In 1995, Chiles published the commission's findings in a report that related the degradation of the Everglades ecosystems to the lower quality of life in urban areas. The report noted past environmental abuses that brought the state to a position to make a decision. Not acting to improve the South Florida ecosystem, the report predicted, would inevitably cause further and intolerable deterioration that would harm local tourism by 12,000 jobs and $200 million annually, and commercial fishing by 3,300 jobs and $52 million annually. Urban areas had grown beyond their capacities to sustain themselves. Crowded cities were facing problems such as high crime rates, traffic jams, severely overcrowded schools, and overtaxed public services; the report noted that water shortages were ironic, given the of rain the region received annually. In 1999, an evaluation of the C&SF was submitted to Congress as part of the Water Development Act of 1992. The seven-year report, called the "Restudy", cited indicators of harm to the ecosystem: a 50 percent reduction in the original Everglades, diminished water storage, harmful timing of water releases from canals and pumping stations, an 85 to 90 percent decrease in wading bird populations over the past 50 years, and the decline of output from commercial fisheries. Bodies of water including
Lake Okeechobee Lake Okeechobee (), also known as Florida's Inland Sea, is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Florida. It is the tenth largest natural freshwater lake among the 50 states of the United States and the second-largest natural freshw ...
, the
Caloosahatchee River The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long.U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline dataThe National Map, accessed April 18, 2011 It dr ...
, St. Lucie estuary,
Lake Worth Lagoon The Lake Worth Lagoon is a lagoon located in Palm Beach County, Florida. It runs parallel to the coast, and is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier beaches, including Palm Beach Island. The lagoon is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by tw ...
,
Biscayne Bay Biscayne Bay () is a lagoon with characteristics of an estuary located on the Atlantic coast of South Florida. The northern end of the lagoon is surrounded by the densely developed heart of the Miami metropolitan area while the southern end is l ...
,
Florida Bay Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland (the Florida Everglades) and the Florida Keys in the United States. It is a large, shallow estuary that while connected to the Gulf of Mexico, has limited exchange of ...
and the Everglades reflected drastic water level changes, hypersalinity, and dramatic changes in marine and freshwater ecosystems. The Restudy noted the overall decline in water quality over the past 50 years was due to loss of wetlands that act as filters for polluted water. It predicted that without intervention the entire South Florida ecosystem would deteriorate. Water shortages would become common and some cities would have annual water restrictions. The Restudy came with a plan to stop the declining environmental quality, and this proposal was to be the most expensive and comprehensive ecological repair project in history. The
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is the plan enacted by the U.S. Congress for the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem in southern Florida. When originally authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2000, it was estimated that CER ...
(CERP) proposed more than 60 construction projects over 30 years to store water that was being flushed into the ocean, in reservoirs, underground aquifers, and abandoned quarries; add more Stormwater Treatment Areas to filter water that flowed into the lower Everglades; regulate water released from pumping stations into local waterways and improve water released to Everglades National Park and Water Conservation Areas; remove barriers to sheetflow by raising the Tamiami Trail and destroying the Miami Canal, and reuse wastewater for urban areas. The cost estimate for the entire plan was $7.8 billion, and in a bipartisan show of cooperation, CERP was voted through Congress with an overwhelming margin. It was signed by President
Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton ( né Blythe III; born August 19, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. He previously served as governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and again ...
on December 11, 2000. Since its signing, the State of Florida reports that it has spent more than $2 billion on the various projects. More than of Stormwater Treatment Areas have been constructed to filter of phosphorus from Everglades waters. An STA spanning was constructed in 2004, making it the largest manmade wetland in the world. Fifty-five percent of the land necessary to acquire for restoration has been purchased by the State of Florida, totaling . A plan to hasten the construction and funding of projects was put into place, named "Acceler8", spurring the start of six of eight large construction projects, including that of three large reservoirs. However, federal funds have not been forthcoming; CERP was signed when the U.S. government had a budget surplus, but since then deficits have renewed, and two of CERP's major supporters in Congress retired. According to a story in ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid ...
'', state officials say the restoration is lost in a maze of "federal bureaucracy, a victim of 'analysis paralysis'". CERP still remains controversial as the projects slated for Acceler8, environmental activists note, are those that benefit urban areas, and regions in the Everglades in desperate need of water are still being neglected, suggesting that water is being diverted to make room for more people in an already overtaxed environment. A series of biennial reports from the U.S. National Research Council have reviewed the progress of CERP. The fourth report in the series, released in 2012, found that little progress has been made in restoring the core of the remaining Everglades ecosystem; instead, most project construction so far has occurred along its periphery. The report noted that to reverse ongoing ecosystem declines, it will be necessary to expedite restoration projects that target the central Everglades, and to improve both the quality and quantity of the water in the ecosystem.National Research Council Report-in-Brief, Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Fourth Biennial Review 2012, http://dels.nas.edu/Materials/Report-In-Brief/4296-Everglades To better understand the potential implications of the current slow pace of progress, the report assessed the current status of ten Everglades ecosystem attributes, including phosphorus loads, peat depth, and populations of snail kites, birds of prey that are endangered in South Florida. Most attributes received grades ranging from C (degraded) to D (significantly degraded), but the snail kite received a grade of F (near irreversible damage). The report also assessed the future trajectory of each ecosystem attribute under three restoration scenarios: improved water quality, improved hydrology, and improvements to both water quality and hydrology, which helped highlight the urgency of restoration actions to benefit a wide range of ecosystem attributes and demonstrate the cost of inaction. Overall, the report concluded that substantial near-term progress to address both water quality and hydrology in the central Everglades is needed to reverse ongoing degradation before it is too late.


Future of the Everglades

In 2008, the State of Florida agreed to buy U.S. Sugar and all of its manufacturing and production facilities for an estimated $1.7 billion. Florida officials indicated they intended to allow U.S. Sugar to process for six more years before dismissing its employees and dismantling the plant. The area, which includes of land, would then be rehabilitated and water flow from Lake Okeechobee would be restored. In November 2008, the agreement was revised to offer $1.34 billion, allowing sugar mills in Clewiston to remain in production. Critics of the revised plan say that it ensures sugarcane will be grown in the Everglades for at least another decade. Further research is being done to address the continuing production of sugarcane in the Everglades to minimize phosphorus runoff. Everglades restoration received $96 million of the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) (), nicknamed the Recovery Act, was a stimulus package enacted by the 111th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in February 2009. Developed in response to the Gr ...
. As a result of the stimulus package, a mile-long (1.6 km) bridge to replace the Tamiami Trail, a road that borders Everglades National Park to the north and has blocked water from reaching the southern Everglades, was begun by the Army Corps of Engineers in December 2009. The next month work began to reconstruct the C-111 canal, east of the park that historically diverted water into Florida Bay. Governor
Charlie Crist Charles Joseph Crist Jr. (; born July 24, 1956) is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011 and as the U.S. representative for from 2017 to 2022. Crist has been a member of the Democrati ...
announced the same month that $50 million of state funds would be earmarked for Everglades restoration. In May 2010, of bridges were proposed to be added to the Tamiami Trail.


Plane crashes

At least three airplanes have crashed in the Everglades. * Northwest Airlines Flight 705, 1963 * On December 29, 1972,
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was a scheduled flight from New York JFK to Miami. Shortly before midnight on December 29, 1972, the Lockheed L-1011-1 TriStar crashed into the Florida Everglades, causing 101 total fatalities. Three of the 4 cockp ...
crashed at the Florida Everglades, causing 101 fatalities and 75 survivors. The cause was pilot error. * On May 11, 1996,
ValuJet Flight 592 ValuJet Airlines Flight 592 was a regularly scheduled flight from Miami International Airport to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport. On May 11, 1996, the ValuJet Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9 operating the route crashed into t ...
crashed in the river of the Everglades killing all 110 passengers and crew. The cause was an in-flight cargo fire.


See also

* Carr (landform) * Everglades Foundation * Everglades Pseudoatoll *
History of Florida The history of Florida can be traced to when the first Native Americans began to inhabit the peninsula as early as 14,000 years ago. They left behind artifacts and archeological evidence. Florida's Recorded history, written history begins with th ...


References


Bibliography

* Barnett, Cynthia (2007). ''Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.'', University of Michigan Press. * Carter, W. Hodding (2004). ''Stolen Water: Saving the Everglades from its Friends, Foes, and Florida'', Atria Books. * Caulfield, Patricia (1970) ''Everglades'', Sierra Club / Ballantine Books. * Douglas, Marjory S. (1947). ''The Everglades: River of Grass''. R. Bemis Publishing. * Douglas, Marjory; Rothchild, John (1987). ''Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River''. Pineapple Press. * Ferriter, Amy; Serbesoff-King, Kristina; Bodle, Mike; Goodyear, Carole; Doren, Bob; Langeland, Ken (2004)
Chapter 8E: Exotic Species in the Everglades Protection Area
South Florida Water Management District * George, Jean (1972). ''Everglades Wildguide''.
National Park Service The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government within the U.S. Department of the Interior that manages all national parks, most national monuments, and other natural, historical, and recreational proper ...
. Gov. doc #I 29.62:Ev2 * Griffin, John (2002). ''Archeology of the Everglades''. University Press of Florida. * Grunwald, Michael (2006). ''The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise''. New York: Simon & Schuster. * Hann, John (ed.) (1991). ''Missions to the Calusa''. University Press of Florida. * Jewell, Susan (1993). ''Exploring Wild South Florida: A Guide to Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Everglades and Florida Keys'', Pineapple Press, Inc. * Lodge, Thomas E. (2005). ''The Everglades Handbook. Understanding the Ecosystem''. CRC Press. * McCally, David (1999). ''The Everglades: An Environmental History''. University Press of Florida. * Ripple, Jeff (1992). ''Big Cypress Swamp and the Ten Thousand Islands: Eastern America's Last Great Wilderness'', University of South Carolina Press. * Tebeau, Charlton (1968). ''Man in the Everglades: 2000 Years of Human History in the Everglades National Park''. University of Miami Press. * Toops, Connie (1998). ''The Florida Everglades''. Voyageur Press. *
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers , colors = , anniversaries = 16 June (Organization Day) , battles = , battles_label = Wars , website = , commander1 = ...
and
South Florida Water Management District The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is a regional governmental district that oversees water resources from Orlando to the Florida Keys. The mission of the SFWMD is to manage and protect water resources by balancing and improving ...
(April 1999). "Summary"
''Central and Southern Florida Project Comprehensive Review Study''
*
University of Florida The University of Florida (Florida or UF) is a public land-grant research university in Gainesville, Florida. It is a senior member of the State University System of Florida, traces its origins to 1853, and has operated continuously on its ...
Agricultural Experiment Station and
United States Department of Agriculture The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, rural economic development, and food. It aims to meet the needs of com ...
Soil Conservation Service (March 1948). ''Bulletin 442: Soils, Geology, and Water Control in the Everglades Region''. * Whitney, Ellie et al., eds. (2004) ''Priceless Florida: Natural Ecosystems and Native Species''. Pineapple Press, Inc. * Wilhelm, Chris, "Pragmatism, Seminoles, and Science: Opposition to Progressive Everglades Drainage". '' The Florida Historical Quarterly''. 90 (Spring 2012), 426–52.


External links


Everglades National Park
UNESCO Collection on Google Arts and Culture


Geography and ecology



an


Arthur R. Marshall National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish & Wildlife Service)

Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area


History


A History of the Everglades
*
History information about the Everglades from
the
World Digital Library The World Digital Library (WDL) is an international digital library operated by UNESCO and the United States Library of Congress. The WDL has stated that its mission is to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volum ...

Public television series episode on history of Florida Everglades


Restoration


The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)

The Everglades Foundation

The Everglades Coalition

South Florida Information Access (U.S. Geological Survey)

Environment Florida – Founders of The "Save The Everglades" campaign

Friends of the Everglades

South Florida Environmental Report (South Florida Water Management District and Florida DEP)


Media


Everglades Digital Library

Water's Journey: Everglades – Comprehensive film and web documentary about the Everglades

The Everglades in the Time of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
(Photo exhibit)



– slideshow by ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid ...
'' {{Authority control Flooded grasslands and savannas Neotropical ecoregions Ecoregions of Florida Marshes of Florida Swamps of Florida Natural regions Wetlands of Florida Symbols of Florida