Everglades National Park, United States of America

A river of grass flowing imperceptibly through South Florida

Orchid (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. 

Water Quantity (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. A vast network of forests and wetlands, it once encompassed 6 million acres. Today the “River of Grass” is less than half its original size. 

Ridges, Sloughs and Tree Islands (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

America’s Everglades provides freshwater for 9 million people and drives billions in economic activity from recreational fishing and boating. It also helps mitigate the impact of climate change by buffering storms and rising sea levels, and by storing carbon from the atmosphere. 

Tree islands - first inhabitants (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Among the first inhabitants, the Calusa lived on drier upland tree islands. Using the trees to build shelters, they hunted and fished. Two sovereign domestic nations still live here: the Seminole and the Miccosukee Tribes, who revere the Everglades landscape as sacred.  

Sawgrass prairie (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The historic flow of water has created higher sawgrass ridges, deeper water sloughs and scattered tree islands. During the dry season, small fish concentrate into the deeper sloughs, attracting wading birds, while teardrop-shaped tree islands provide a drier upland refuge.

The Everglades (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Rainwater once caused Lake Okeechobee to gently overflow, providing year-round hydration for the Everglades. In the past century, flood control, agriculture and development have cut off the freshwater flow, leaving the Everglades severely dehydrated during the dry season.

Threatened species - The Wood Stork (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park is noteworthy for its biodiversity. The exceptional variety of its water habitats has made it a sanctuary for a large number of birds and reptiles. The greater Everglades ecosystem provides refuge to more than 70 rare, threatened, or endangered species.

Cypress dome, The Everglades (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

“Cypress domes” develop when cypress trees take root in depressions in the limestone bedrock. Taller trees grow in the deepest water, smaller ones along the basin’s edge, creating a dome-like shape. They provide refuge for alligators that dig the depressions wider and deeper.

Where alligators and crocodiles coexist (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Everglades is the only place where alligators and crocodiles coexist. American alligators are usually found in freshwater, while American crocodiles prefer brackish habitats. Increased freshwater flows will improve alligator habitat while also benefitting juvenile crocodiles.

Wading Birds (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park was established to protect its biodiversity. Encompassing just 23% of the greater Everglades ecosystem, it is still one of America’s largest national parks. Due to its disrupted water flow, it is also recognized as being the most threatened.

Burrowing owls (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park provides important foraging and breeding habitat for more than 400 species of birds, includes the most significant breeding grounds for wading birds in North America and is a major corridor for migration.

Draining the Everglades (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Dredging South Florida for agriculture and development began shortly after statehood was established in 1845, effectively cutting off the natural southerly freshwater flow. A massive infrastructure effort now seeks to restore it, to reverse harmful environmental consequences.

Largest environmental resoration project (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is the largest environmental restoration effort in history, joining 68 components such as water storage reservoirs and engineered wetlands to store and clean freshwater, so it can safely be sent south through the Everglades.

Hardwood Hammock and Pine Rockland (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Hardwood hammocks are characterized by diverse, closed canopies of hardwoods. Pine rocklands, found only in South Florida and the Bahamas, house an array of animals and plants. Pine rocklands will transform into a tropical hardwood hammock in 20 to 30 years without fire.

Marl praries (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Marl prairies support a diverse array of plant species, a number of them are endangered and endemic to this unique terrain. Found alongside deeper sloughs in the Everglades, “marl” soils hold water above ground for shorter periods of time than deeper swamp habitats.

Seasonal changes (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The Everglades has only two seasons. The wet season is from May to October and features frequent rain and thunderstorms, and the dry season is from November to April. 

Florida Bay (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Florida Bay is a vital Everglades estuary that has also been negatively impacted by water management practices and human development.

Economic benefits - Florida Bay (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

“The fishing capital of the world,” Florida Bay is integral to the economy of the Florida Keys. Its inflow of freshwater from the Everglades has been greatly reduced, particularly in the dry season, causing higher salinity levels that are linked to seagrass and fish die-offs.

Climate change (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Everglades National Park is home to the largest contiguous stand of protected mangrove forest in the U.S. Mangroves provide critical fish nursery habitats and nesting sites for birds, while mitigating the effects of climate change.

Peat soil (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Formed over eons, Everglades peat soils store large amounts of carbon and are important in fighting climate change. Overly dry conditions and saltwater intrusion enable the release of large amounts of carbon, but increased year-round freshwater flows will protect the peat.

Periphyton (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Composed of algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, microbes, plant detritus and microinvertebrates, periphyton is at the base of the Everglades food chain. It adds oxygen to the water, contributes to soil formation, provides habitat and is an indicator of water quality. 

The threat of development (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

Humans pose the greatest hazard to the Everglades. Surrounded by some of the most desirable real estate in the U.S., and with thousands of new residents moving to the area, development continually threatens to encroach on what remains of the Everglades. 

Communities South Florida (1979) by Everglades National ParkUNESCO World Heritage

The millions who live in communities surrounding the Everglades benefit from the ecosystem in many ways. Over 9 million people get their freshwater supply from the Everglades, while Floridians and visitors enjoy fishing and recreation in the Everglades and surrounding canals.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by The Everglades Foundation: www.evergladesfoundation.org
Supported by Visit Florida: www.visitflorida.com

More on Everglades National Park and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/76/

Photos and videos: Luca Martinez https://www.instagram.com/lucamartinez.fl 

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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