This paper describes how human activities have modified and changed the Everglades describing the two different Endangered Species found in the Everglades as well as what has lead to their status · The role of introduced species in this ecosystem is highlighted and the current major environmental threats to the Everglades stated. Finally, the on going plans to restore the Everglades are described
Human activities modification
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One of the human activities carried out in the Everglades area is draining water for residential use. The land has been used for residential purposes where a few municipalities' lies within Everglades and majority residential and urban area lie along the eastern border of this area. The towns within the Everglades are Belle Glade, Clewiston and South Bay. There is colonization of the coastal Ridge resulting in the increase in population. The offshoot of population explosion has resulted in development of the eastern part everglades. This is because there has been multiple land use where residential and commercial development predominate them. The residential areas vary in type and density from high condominiums to low density and single family dwellings. There is also light industries, shopping centers, office buildings as well as rock mining producing fill material to roads and houses building (Scheidt D. pg 240).
Another human activity in the area is agriculture. Agricultural use of organic soils of northern and central Everglades has been required drainage and water management actions since 1900 where about 13800 hectors were cultivated to produce corn, tropical fruits and sugarcane by the year 1920. The Everglades Agricultural Area covering approximately 283000 hectors in south of lake Okeechobee was set aside for agriculture in which sugarcane is the major crop grown in this area. Winter vegetables, lawn sod and pasture for cattle are produced as well. The marl prairies of southern Everglades have been farmed where the shallow soils were ploughed and planted during the winter season and later abandoned during summer wet season. This was facilitated by powerful machinery that enabled farmers to pulverize limestone bedrock beneath the shallow soil. Today the area is used to produce tomatoes, squash, beans, okra, nursery stock, tropical fruits and sweet potatoes (Scheidt D. pg 239).
Effects of human activities
The major effect to the conversion of the Everglades area is the loss of habitat and the runoff contaminants. The area that was once marshy is now inhabited by people. The surrounding wetlands have been degraded by drainage and pollution from storm sewer, landfills and waste disposal sites that contaminate the ground and surface waters (Scheidt D. pg 240).
The result of drainage and agriculture in the Everglades agricultural area is the loss of organic soils caused by biochemical oxidation of soils upon exposure to air and fires. There is also reduction of soil elevation in the area by two meters where about 66% of the total volume of soil was lost by the year 1970. Agriculture has altered the surrounding natural systems where nitrogen and pesticides that were applied to the soils were transported through canals northwards to the lake and southward to the water conservation area causing dramatic changes in vegetation to Everglades which was historically oligotrophic system. The lake has recurring algal blooms hence becoming increasingly eutrophic (Scheidt D. pg 239).
Shifts in species composition of macrophyte and periphyton communities in the marsh areas has emerged. In the conservation areas one and two, there has resulted in displacement of saw grass by cattail. The area of poor quality water(area dominated by cattail ) has expanded by 5100 hectors by the year 1986.periphyton communities in the water conservation area have become less diverse hence there is fewer species of diatoms and desmids as they are dominated by pollutant-tolerant algae. Southern prairies have been irreversibly altered due to farming and plowing which aerates the soil and creates roots space which results in colonization by mycorrhizal fungi which were not present in the native soils and are now colonized by exotic shrubs and Brazilian pepper (Scheidt D. pg 239).
Addressing the problem
Dams were created resulting in three shallow impoundments known as Cater Conservation Areas (WCAs) which enclosed most of the remaining Everglades which were shallow marshes with soils and too poor to support agriculture. Gates are now controlling discharges from one WCA to the next. The last impoundment discharges into Everglades National Park. The dam stores water for use du ring drought season in the South Dade, Monroe, Dade, Broward and southern Palm Beach. Millions of people on the lower east coast are drawing water from the sacrificial Biscayne Aquifer which is supplied by water released from the WCAs when rains fail. The U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Florida took filed a complaint on behalf of the United States against the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and the South Florida Water Management District in to protect the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park from the effects of pollution on the agricultural drainage water. The major Florida and national conservation organization intervened on the side of the United States. The lawsuit was unusual because as it relied on state instead of federal law and focused on the agencies' failure to administer their own state laws (The Florida Everglades).
Due changes in state administration, the agencies and federal interests negotiated a cleanup plan that was made final in 1992 by a federal consent decree. The plan described the interim and final results for cleanup efforts. Legal maneuvering by the sugar industry has begun but how much to be cleaned up and payments issues have not been decided completely define the final result. A combination of on-farm management practices and man-made marshes that provide nutrient-filtering areas intended to reduce phosphorus in farm drainage from about 200 to 50 parts per billion will be used (The Florida Everglades).
As part of a larger restoration program for South Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), federal, state, tribal and local agencies collaborated to develop a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) focusing on increasing storage of wet season waters to providing more water during the dry season for the natural system and urban and agricultural users. The plan consists of 68 projects estimated to take 36 years and $7.8 billion to be completed (Nicole C. pg 1)
The Everglades is now half its original size. Many factors have contributed to its decline are flood control projects and agricultural and urban development. As part of a larger restoration program for South Florida, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, federal, state, tribal and local agencies collaborated to develop a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan focusing on increasing storage of wet season waters to providing more water during the dry season for the natural system and urban and agricultural users.
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