The Everglades

A vast subtropical watershed

By Ephemera documentary

Angelo Chiacchio

The Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Florida Everglades is an expansive tropical wetlands region in southern Florida. It hosts an incredible variety of interconnected ecosystems and is a refuge for endangered creatures such as the manatee, American crocodile and the Florida panther. Throughout its rich history, the Everglades watershed has been impacted by human activities, including efforts to drain or shift the flow of its waters, and the introduction of invasive species.

The result has been a systematic disruption of this unique natural wonder and an ongoing threat to its intricate community of plants and animals. Now, with the accelerating pace of climate change, the future of these sustaining waters has never been less clear. 




Aerial view of Florida Bay (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In August 2018, photographer Angelo Chiacchio - in his journey to the world's most fragile places - visited this region from Miami to Key Largo.

A street of Miami (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The City of Miami is a well-known tourist destination, famous for its sunny weather, beaches and vibrant lifestyle.  It is difficult to imagine that a swamp once covered most of southern Florida, and was drained to uncover the land upon which the city was built.  

Aerial view of upper Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

That drained swamp was actually a part of The Everglades, with its sawgrass plains that look like floating fields that span from Lake Okeechobee down to the Florida Bay. 

Aerial view of Key Largo (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

In order to promote real estate development and bolster the sugar industry, the United States government has undertaken a vast number of construction projects aimed at controlling the flow of water in The Everglades.

Landscape of the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Only the southernmost part of The Everglades remains wild. In 1934, Everglades National Park was established in order to protect a portion of these iconic wetlands from further development.  

Inside the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Everglades is a vast wetland expanse that supports unique and rich ecosystems.

In the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Aerial view of Florida Bay (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The seamless blend of water and land in The Everglades covers a huge geographic area, and its unique natural features cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. 

A pair of Eastern Lubber Grassohoppers (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Everglades is a world unto itself. It is home to many eastern lubber grasshoppers, whose markings are more reminiscent of a tiger or leopard than an insect. 

An alligator in the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

It is the only place in the world where you find both alligators and crocodiles. 

Alligators have U-shaped snouts and live in freshwater while crocodiles have narrower V-shaped snouts and prefer saltwater.  

Close up of American allifgator (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Alligators were close to extinction until legal protections led to a recovery in their population. Non-native reptile species, such as the Burmese python,  thrive in The Everglades, but often at the expense of native fauna.

Great Blue Heron from the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The Everglades is also one of America's largest and most important nesting areas for wading birds. The Great Blue Heron is commonly found along the coast, where it feeds on the plentiful fish, crabs, insects and shrimp.

Great Egret from the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Another wading bird is the Great Egret, which stalks prey in shallower parts. Recent data shows a decline in the populations of many types of wading birds. 

This decline has been attributed to the Burmese python, various human activities and climate change. 

Mangroves trees in the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Plant species are suffering too. Mangrove trees, which play a critical role as a nursery for aquatic life and a buffer for freshwater ecosystems and shorelines, are being impacted by climate change.

Closeup of mangroves seedings (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

The mangrove’s roots trap soil, which helps stabilize the coastal lands.

Aerial view of mangroves in the Florida Bay (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

But the sea level and temperatures are rising, storms are getting more intense. The ocean has begun to overwhelm The Everglades’ delicate balance and to erode the swampland border.  

Aerial view of Florida Bay (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

If the concentration of saltwater continues to increase, it will set off an ecological chain reaction that will permanently change The Everglades. 

Sunrise over the Everglades (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Conclusion

The Florida Everglades is a vast watershed with a diversity of interwoven ecosystems. These unparalleled wetlands are now imperiled by climate change and other adverse effects of human activity. Restraint and ingenuity are needed to preserve this special place and the many species it supports. 



Terra by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

Partnership by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary

This story was created with the support of Art Works for Change, a nonprofit organization that creates contemporary art exhibitions and storytelling projects to address critical social and environmental issues.

Credits: Story

Written, shot and produced by Angelo Chiacchio
Copy editing: Al Grumet, Rajesh Fotedar

With the support of: Google Arts & Culture, Art Works for Change

Thanks to: Russell, Monica Russo, Carmelina Natale and Alex Munoz 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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