Image by Robin Werling

THE SCIENCE OF 

EVERGLADES ECOLOGY

Over 2,000 species of plants and animals make their home in the greater Everglades. Unfortunately, a significant number of them – including the Florida panther, Everglade snail kite, and wood stork – are imperiled. 

The greater Everglades is a mosaic of ecosystems stretching over 200 miles of the Florida peninsula from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes down to the Florida Keys. The ecosystem once supported healthy populations of wading birds, American alligators, and American crocodiles. Unfortunately, human disturbance led to a loss of 50% of the original Everglades, and much of what remains is impacted by insufficient flows of clean freshwater, resulting in continued habitat degradation.

ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH AT

THE EVERGLADES FOUNDATION

 

Ecological research at The Everglades Foundation centers on understanding how human impacts and threats including climate change, sea level rise, water management, urban development, and nutrient inputs affect everything from soil microbes to the diversity of plants and animals across the Everglades.

We also strive to understand the benefits of Everglades restoration for its inhabitants, how restoration may mitigate some of the impacts of climate change already faced by native plants and animals, and what those species need to survive and thrive in the Everglades. Understanding this allows our science team to anticipate future ecological challenges and to work with water managers and restoration planners on developing feasible solutions.

Our research also considers the fate of our coastal habitats like mangrove forests and seagrass meadows. These habitats are maintained by a balance of clean freshwater mixing with seawater. By re-directing the flow of clean freshwater from Lake Okeechobee back to the Everglades, we can minimize the decades-long impacts to coastal habitats along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries. We can also provide for the needs of coastal mangroves and seagrass in Florida Bay.

Our research has also shown that increased freshwater flows into the coastal Everglades will slow the rapid loss (i.e., collapse) of coastal wetlands and peat soils. Through the combination of sea level rise, low freshwater flow due to water management, and saltwater intrusion, peat soil can break down rapidly, collapsing into open water. This results in habitat loss, a release in nutrients once sequestered in the peat soil into the environment, and a less protected shoreline to storm surge.

The Everglades Foundation also shares scientific information about the species and ecosystems of the Everglades, threats they are facing, and how restoration can help. 

FUN FACTS ABOUT

EVERGLADES SPECIES

GET TO KNOW  MORE ABOUT THE ANIMALS THAT CALL THE EVERGLADES HOME

  • There are only 2 species of alligators found worldwide – one in Florida, and the other in China. 

 

  • South Florida is the only place where alligators and crocodiles coexist.

 

  • American alligators exhibit tool use, a behavior normally associated with highly intelligent animals. A few decades ago, we thought the only animals to use tools were humans.

 

  • There are 3 species of seahorses in the coastal waters of South Florida: lined seahorses, dwarf seahorses, and slender seahorses. Males actually care for the eggs.  The females deposit eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where they are fertilized, and he carries them until they hatch.

 

  • Roseate spoonbills experience something like balding when they age, but instead of losing hair, they loose feathers from the top of their head.

 

  • Wood storks can snap their bills shut in 25 milliseconds, representing one of the fastest reflexes found in vertebrates.

 

  • Florida manatees are pregnant for 12 months, and their babies weigh almost 66 lbs. when they’re born. They live with their mothers for 1 to 2 years, and can swim and vocalize right after birth. 

 

  • Black bears, including the Florida black bear, have an excellent sense of smell, 7 times better than that of a bloodhound.

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EVERGLADES ECOLOGY

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