Everglades National Park covers over 1.5 million acres of wetlands in South Florida, providing important habitat for some of the state’s most elusive and endangered species, like the West Indian manatee , the American crocodile and the Florida panther.
The park is a haven filled with coastal mangroves, essential for preventing erosion and absorbing storm surges during Florida’s famous hurricanes, as well as sawmill swamps and miniature pine and hardwood islands.
Despite its federal protection as a national park, the Everglades face constant threats from surrounding urban development, pollution, and invasive species.
The Everglades National Park contains one of the largest wetlands in the world
The Florida Everglades are made up of subtropical wetlands that receive most of their water from precipitation and freshwater systems near the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee.
The Everglades freshwater swamp ecosystem channels water through the park and remains completely inundated most of the year – the current moves about 100 feet per day.
However, the Everglades isn’t just a freshwater wetland, as more than a third of the park is made up of marine and estuarine systems.
The park sees nearly 60 inches of rain per year
Most of the park’s average annual precipitation occurs during the summer season, from mid-May to November, when temperatures reach 90 degrees. Due to the trapped heat and humidity, thunderstorms are not uncommon, sometimes occurring almost daily and lasting from a few minutes to several hours.
Due to its location at the southern tip of Florida, the Everglades National Park is also one of the most hurricane-active areas in the country.
The region was first inhabited in 1000 BC.
Before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the early 16th century, the area that would become Everglades National Park was largely inhabited by the Calusa people. By the 1700s, a majority of Calusa’s population had succumbed to diseases brought by the settlers, leaving behind many traces of their society, including seashell tools, carved wood, and canoe trails.
The Everglades survived the grueling efforts of the first colonizers in the 1800s and coastal development in the 1900s, before gaining the attention of environmentalists like the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Some species of mammals in the park have adapted to the semi-aquatic environment
There are over 40 types of mammals living in Everglades National Park, many of which are species typically associated with drier habitats such as forests and fields. These animals have adapted over time to thrive in the park’s semi-aquatic environment, foraging in the sawgrass meadow and mangroves in search of their next meal.
The swamp rabbit is sometimes seen swimming in higher freshwater marshes and coastal grasslands, while white-tailed deer tend to get smaller because they don’t need the extra layer of fat to protect them. in winter.
Everglades National Park has an invasive species problem
Non-native and invasive species have remained a huge threat to South Florida’s environment, and the Everglades is no exception.
Exotic fish with a competitive advantage over native species fill habitats and steal resources, while invasive melaleuca trees grow taller than the ecosystem can support and shade native plants.
Burmese pythons have also established a large population in the park, causing a 99.3% loss of raccoons, 98.9% loss of possums and 87.5% loss of lynx between 1997 and 2015. In response , the South Florida Natural Resources Center of Everglades National Park created invasive plant and invasive animal programs to raise awareness and create more balance within the park.
The park is an important breeding site for tropical waders
At least 16 different species of wading birds live in the park, including the white ibis, which prefers crayfish to fish, and the wood stork, which was removed from the endangered species list in June 2014. D other common waders are the green-backed waders. the heron, the great blue heron, the brilliant ibis and the roseate spoonbill.
It is home to the largest contiguous stand of protected mangroves in the Western Hemisphere
Mangrove forests are home to several species of salt tolerant trees with long, dense roots capable of surviving the harsh growing conditions of the South Florida coast. The mangroves of the Everglades range from red to black to white and thrive in tidal waters where fresh water meets salt water.
Mangroves serve as habitats and nurseries for a variety of important marine species in the park, provide wading birds with areas to feed and nest during the dry months, and protect the coastline from strong winds and storm surges during the season. hurricanes.
Everglades National Park has won international accolades
The Everglades National Park is a place of international importance, earning a place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 and on the Ramsar Convention’s list of Wetlands of International Importance in 1987.
It was also designated an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, a limited list of just over 500 sites that serve as protected samples of the world’s major ecosystem types.
At least 22 endangered and 16 threatened species live inside the park
There are 22 endangered and 16 threatened species of plants and animals that live in Everglades National Park and are protected by the Endangered Species Act. Many of these species, such as the West Indian manatee, American crocodile, and Florida butterfly, have critical habitats inside the park.
In addition, approximately 180 species of plants and animals in the Everglades are listed by the State of Florida as threatened, endangered, special concern, or commercially exploited.
The Everglades is the largest federally protected area of wilderness in the eastern United States
As well as being one of the largest wetlands in the world, the Everglades is also home to some of the largest National Wilderness Preservation System protected areas east of the Rocky Mountains.
Known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness (named after the conservationist largely responsible for preserving the Everglades), the federally designated wilderness spans 1.3 million acres in the national park. of the Everglades.