By Eilene Lyon
This National Park could literally vanish during your lifetime.
The Everglades National Park was the first national park set aside to protect a threatened ecosystem. The “River of Grass” has been heavily impacted by removal of water to serve the needs of Florida’s burgeoning population. As a result, changing habitat has led to a drastic decline in breeding populations of wading birds – down 93% from the 1930s.
The wood stork was added to the endangered species list in 1984. Fewer than 10 Florida panthers remain in the park. Native species are also suffering the effects of competition from invasive plants and animals.
Wood stork in the River of Grass
But these ongoing threats could be dwarfed by another looming disaster – rising sea level. In my home state of Colorado, I’m used to a “pass” being a 10,000-foot route through the mountain. While driving through the Everglades, I passed the sign for Rock Reef Pass, elevation: 4 feet above sea level! No point in the entire park is higher than 8 feet above sea level.
“See ya later, alligator”
“After a while, crocodile!”
Boardwalks through the park provide access to wildlife viewing in a variety of habitats.
Florida gar. Even fish are threatened by non-native invasive species and poor water quality. Mercury build-up is a serious problem in the park.
Paddling through mangroves near Everglade City. I’d love to take the Wilderness Waterway by canoe someday soon.
A green heron scratches an itch.
The pockets of slash pine are the most diverse habitat in southern Florida.
A tri-color heron
An evening view of the River of Grass and hardwood hammocks
Feature image: Anhinga sunning on a submerged log
Sources: In addition to the link above, information was drawn from the park brochure.