The Everglades , reaching from central Florida all the way south to Florida Bay , is a two million acre wetland ecosystem . During the wet season, Lake Okeechobee overflows, water passing through diverse habitats, including cypress swamps, wet prairie and mangroves, until it reaches Everglades National Park and eventually Florida Bay.
Everglades National Park located in Florida , is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States . The National Park protects the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades. Everglades National Park is visited on average by one million people each year. It is the third-largest national park after Death Valley and Yellowstone.
The Everglades is declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance . The Everglades are shaped by water and fire, experiencing frequent flooding in the wet season and drought in the dry season.
The Everglades is well known for its incredible wildlife that includes crocodiles, manatees, and a huge host of birds such as roseate spoonbills, egrets, and wood storks. Here are some of the plants and animals you can find in the Everglades:
- Plants: The diversity of Everglades’ habitats means there’s also a great diversity of plants. There are wetland plants from sawgrass and bladderwort to cypress and mangrove trees. There are pine trees, hardwoods, and even beautiful orchids.
- Birds: Over 350 bird species can be found in Everglades National Park alone. The Everglades is known for its many wading birds, such as white and glossy ibises, roseate spoonbills, egrets, herons and wood storks, but it also hosts huge numbers of smaller migratory birds.
- Reptiles: Both alligators and crocodiles live in the Everglades and are sometimes mistaken for each other. Everglades National Park has 27 different kinds of snakes alone.
- Mammals: The Everglades’ most endangered animal, a mammal, is the Florida panther, of which about 80 now survive
Since the 1800′s, human actions have been altering the Everglades landscape. Water diversions and flood control projects cut water flows and connections between wetlands throughout the Everglades. The size of the Everglades has decreased dramatically due to the agricultural and urban development .
An invasive species is able to spread throughout new ecosystems, because it doesn’t have the natural predators from its native land to keep it in check. Once they’ve become established, these invaders are hard to stop. The Everglades is being threatened by numerous plant and animal invaders. Animal invaders prey on or compete with native species. The Cuban treefrog eats smaller native frogs, while the Nile monitor eats burrowing owls and crocodile eggs. Burmese pythons have even been known to prey on alligators!
Restoring the Everglades ecosystem will help to prevent new invasions and keep established invasive species in check. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved in 2000. It is intended to restore, protect and preserve the Everglades by capturing fresh water that now flows unused to the ocean and the gulf and redirect it to areas that need it most for environmental restoration.
The busiest season for visitors is from December to March, when temperatures are lowest and mosquitoes are least active. The park features four visitor centers: Shark Valley Visitor Center, Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center and The Gulf Coast Visitor Center