The Uniqueness of Everglades National Park Essay

Everglades National Park is located in the southern tip of Florida. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in North America. Its total area including expansion (water and land) makes up 2,358 square miles. Everglades’ designated wilderness is 524,686 hectares. Everglades National Park was created in order to preserve the unique fauna and flora of “historic values the essential primitive natural conditions now prevailing in this area” (Everglades National Park Information 2007).

It is the first national park that was preserved predominantly because of its variety and abundance of life, rather than because of its historic or scenic values. The project of Everglades National Park was made by Ernest F. Coe, a Yale-educated landscape architect. From the very beginning the park was much smaller in size (186,159 hectares). However, since 1947 the size of the park has considerably increased to 497,167 hectares (in 1950) and to 566,788 hectares by 1958.

Additionally, in 1989 the eastern boundary of the park was expanded by 44,112 hectares, mainly to protect and restore its natural ecosystem (Everglades National Park Information 2007). Everglades National Park is known for its wide variety of flora and fauna. Epiphytic orchids and Bromeliads are the Everglades most prominent plants. Approximately 25 varieties of orchids grow in the park along with more than 1,000 other seed-bearing plants and 120 species of trees.

More than 36 endangered or threatened animal species are known to occur in Everglades National Park, such as crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), the Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritima mirabilis) (Everglades National Park Information 2007), to mention a few. Conservation Efforts Everglades National Park faces plenty of threats, such as draining, dredging and many others.

In addition, there is a concern about so-called ‘edge effects” Edge effects refer to the idea that “residents near parks bring pets that prey on wildlife, lead to urban-type development that increases storm runoff and often drive off-highway vehicles that bring intrusions and noise” (Developers covet areas 2007). The harmful side effects of human intrusions are conductive to the degradation of the ecosystem, especially taking into account the fact that over five million people live next to Everglades National Park. Besides, there are plenty of sugar plantations to the south of the Lake Okeechobee, huge farms, and cities.

Moreover, the cities and farms pose a threat to Everglades’ ecosystem, taking the water the park requires to survive. In order to solve the problem and to protect the unique Everglades’ ecosystem, the federal and state governments embark upon numerous restoration and protection projects. There were many engineering projects ranged from land reclamation and drainage (after 1928) to flood control. Within the course of the years, the old channels were deepened, the new channels were dug, and new levees, dikes and pumping stations were added in order to protect Everglades from floods.

Unfortunately, the projects were conductive to the coastal cities’ growth, while the natural areas were affected by arbitrary and reduced water flow. In order to remedy the harmful effects, the authorities reexamined and re-shifted projects from flood control to water management (Everglades Flood Control 2007). During the last century the ecosystem of Everglades National Park was severely impacted by human intrusions. The state and federal governments approved more than 68 restoration and protection projects that will cost at least $8 billion over more than 20 years (Everglades Flood Control 2007).

High emphasis should be placed on Everglades’ restoration and protection. In case the intrusion goes unchecked, the biological diversity will be threatened. The effects of uninformed water management and unrestricted growth policies on the ecosystem of the national park will lead to detrimental consequences. The destruction of habitat will be inevitable. In its turn, it will result in loss of species. It should be taken into account that Everglades National Park “no longer teem with wildlife as it had for thousands of years” (Preservation 2007).

The vast majority of species occurring in Everglades are either endangered or threatened. As it is provided by the National Audubon Society, the quantity of wading birds (e. g. egrets, wood storks, etc) has reduced 93% since the 1930s (from 265,000 to 18,500) (Preservation 2007). The statistics concerning other endangered species is also disturbing. For example, the population of roseate spoonbill has also reduced by 50% since 1980. The researchers also report that Everglades’ crocodiles and alligators’ reproduction has reduced as well, and the wood stork “has sometimes failed to reproduce at all” (Preservation 2007).

What concerns fish, some species of fish were considered unsafe for eating because of mercury contamination in their bodies. Everglades National Park contains more endangered or threatened representatives of flora and fauna than any other national park in the United States. Therefore, it is very important to understand the necessity of its protection and restoration. As far as the national park was created especially for the purposes of protection of a complex ecosystem, the situation is even more disturbing. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 affords some measure of legal protection.

There are many other protection acts aimed to “end the ecological decline” of Everglades national park. The Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989 authorized “the addition of 109,506 acres of the east Everglades to the park”. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to dismount a part of flood-control canal system in South Florida and to “restore the meandering Kissimmee River and its surrounding wetlands”. However, it is not enough to protect the unique national park.

As it is claimed by George Frampton, the president of the Wilderness Society, “Of all the national parks, it [the Everglades] is the one closest to extinction” (Preservation 2007). Americans “ditched, diked and drained Florida thinking that was progress” (Preservation 2007) before they realized that they “totally changed the whole balance” (Preservation 2007). The additional proposals and measures to insure the preservation of the property may include engaging volunteers to control poaching and vandalism in Everglades, to develop an effective conservation management plan, strategy and implementation.

The authorities of the park should assess of current conservation programs in order to better implement the management of Everglades. Among other measures, Everglades’ authorities should launch public programs in order to enhance public awareness of the biodiversity of Everglades in general and of the decline of flora and fauna species in order to stem changes to the natural environment of Everglades resulting from encroachment by visitors.