The Everglades region is a great natural wonder of the world. Located in the southern part of Florida, this sub-tropical marshland provides a home to thousands of fascinating plants and animals.
The Everglades gets most of its water from Lake Okeechobee, one of the nation’s largest freshwater marshlands. At one point this region covered close to 4,000 square miles. The water from Lake Okeechobee seeps into the limestone lying beneath the Everglades and feeds the wetland through a series of aquifers on the lake’s underground rock that store water. The Everglades are filled with small lakes and channels that cross each other.
As one of the largest remaining freshwater marshlands, the Everglades houses plant types that range from tropical to forest and desert-like plants. The area is dotted with living things including 1,000 seed-bearing plants, 25 kinds of orchids, and 120 species of trees. One of these trees is the mangroves, a tropical species mostly recognized for its roots that look like stilts above water.
Like greenery, many different types of animals inhabit the Everglades. For example, Colonial birds depend on the area’s cypress and mangrove trees as nesting sites. Also, over 320 species of birds thrive in this marshland, including wood storks, reddish egrets, and southern bald eagles. Furthermore, anhinga’s, roseate spoonbills, pelicans, wood ibis, herons, and egrets make their nests in the Everglades’ mangrove fringe.
The American alligator and crocodile freely roam around the Everglade’s waters, where 105 species of fish live. The Florida panther, various otters, a dozen species of turtles, and the manatee also call this area home.
These diverse species face threats from increasing development and the infrastructure needs of the ever-growing human population. The Everglades region also faces constant threat of encroachments from drainage works and flood defenses that reduce its amount of water flow. Indeed, human activity is taking a large fall on this marshland. In fact, in the 1930’s, about 1.5 million birds nested in the Everglades. Today, that population has decreased to under 50,000. Still, much of the Everglades is untouched by humans.
Although sawgrass may fill most of this native freshwater marshland, an astonishing number of plants, trees, and creatures make the Everglades unique. This wondrous wild land supports so many species who depend on it to survive.
[Sources: 100 Great Wonders of the World; oceanservice.noaa.gov]