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What College Students Can Do to Maintain the Wetland Ecosystem in South Florida

Essay by   •  March 28, 2012  •  Essay  •  1,328 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,130 Views

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The Everglades is a beautiful ecosystem that is gradually deteriorating day by day. This ecosystem begins at Lake Okeechobee, a large lake in central Florida, and ends in the Gulf of Mexico. Originally, the everglades covered one third of the state of Florida, and had a river 110 miles wide. Today, the Everglades are approximately 1.5 million acres in total size, and span a width of approximately 50 miles.

These numbers illustrate how the everglades have decreased by half in just a century. Moreover, this national treasure is home to many different species to include, birds, reptiles, and tropical plants, which have all had to endure the decrease in territory. The mix of salt and freshwater makes the Everglades the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles can co-exist. Although the Everglades do flow in a river-like manner, the flow of water is so slow that from a distance it doesn't seem to move at all. Also, much of the wildlife contained within the Everglades is very dependent on the cycling of this slow moving water. Not only is the water flow important to many inhabitants of the everglades, it is also important for humans to witness seeing this eco-system, which contains so many different unique features.

The Everglades began going through major changes in 1905, when the city of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale started to grow. This process was initiated when a beneficial plan was developed by the United States Corps of Engineers to help stop the damage caused by frequent flooding and to create more farming land. The focus of the flooding problems to be corrected by the Corps of Engineers occurred primarily in the Kissimmee River basin, a major river running south though central Florida. This river also functioned as the primary source of clean water to the Florida Everglades. This plan ultimately led to catastrophe occurred due to poorly conceived, planning, and execution. The end result of this well intentioned flood control plan, consequently destroyed thousands of acres of wetlands and wild life habitat, which led to a major ecological decline in the Everglades.

Unfortunately, today, the Everglades are confronted with a series of problems such as pollution, endangered animals, population growth, and the declination of the Florida Bay. Pollution is also by far one of the biggest problems the Everglades faces. Annually, 200 tons of fertilizer phosphates enter Everglade soil each year. Farms that grow sugarcane are gradually arising near the Everglade eco-system. Ultimately these farms have been found to be the leading cause for phosphorus pollution. For example, one study found that phosphorus levels in Lake Okeechobee are 3.5 times higher than recommended levels. These increased levels ultimately create algae blooms, which decrease the amount of sunlight and oxygen available for sea grasses to grow. Furthermore, wastewater utilities and dry sludge from sewage treatment plants, are spread onto fields in the Lake Okeechobee watershed as a disposal method. This sludge contributes to nearly a quarter of the phosphorous in the watershed. It is estimated that approximately one million acres of the Everglades drainage system, contains fish with high levels of mercury. This mercury can be attributed to the coal-fired power plants an industrial facilities like cement plants surrounding the outskirts of the Everglades. Additionally, there are over a dozen endangered species in the Everglades, and this rate is increasing at an alarming pace every day. Several of these at risk animals include crocodiles, turtles, panthers, and manatees, also there has been a noticeable reduction in wading birds and other species.

The declining lake, estuary health, and loss of native habitat to exotic species are some of the most difficult factors for endangered species. Moreover, the everglade ecosystem is being over- run by exotic plants, which subsequently kill off native plants species. In the Everglades, 1/4 of the plants are not native species. An example of this

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