“There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass.”- Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades: River of Grass, 1947
The Everglades located in southern Florida in the U.S.A, are a subtropical wetland region covered with tall saw like grass, unique in its ecosystem. It is bounded on the north by the Lake Okeechobee, on the west by the Big Cypress Swamp, on the east by a pine tree covered limestone ridge and on the south by an Estuarine Mangrove Swamp and salt water marshes.
The everglades consist of tall and sharp grass which is quite unique to this region. Most of the area is vast swamp having so much marsh water that small dot like islands are present on them which are covered with trees. These small land masses are called “Hammocks” and “Heads”. The most commonly found trees are Palm, Willow, Palmetto, Gumbo Limbo and Mahogany. All of these trees grow very tall and blocks a majority of the sunlight from entering inside.
How it got its Name
When it was first mapped in 1773 by a British surveyor, John Gerard de Brahm along with the coastal region of Florida, it was named as the “River Glades”. But according to the author of “Everglades: River of Grass”, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, that the later Spanish cartographers placed “Ever” in place of “River” even though the area was not explored until later. The native Indians (Seminole tribe) called it as Pa-Hay-Okeewhich means “Grassy Water” which was used to name the area in American Military maps in 1839 during the first Seminole war but was changed to “Everglades” during the second Seminole war.
Commercialization of the Everglades
In the latter half of the 19thcentury the idea of draining the everglades was proposed to use the region for productive purposes. In 1882, the project was started and canals were built along the land to direct water to the cities nearby but were disturbed by constant floods and hurricanes. In 1947, the Congress formed the central and southern Florida flood control project which developed nearly 2,300 km of canals and other water control devices. About 50% of the initial area of the Everglades was converted to urban and agricultural land. Sugarcane was the primary crop which was grown in the farmland. The construction of an international airport was proposed 10 kilometres north of the now Everglades national park but failed because studies showed that such a large scale deforestation would destroy the ecosystem of South Florida, which pulled everyone’s attention towards restoring the Everglades.
The Everglades National Park
Nearly twenty per centof the entire everglades is protected against deforestation by the Florida state and the United States of America government and has been designated as a “National Park” which was established in 1934. Millions of people visit the everglades national park every year and is truly a natural wonder. It has been declared as “World heritage Site” by UNESCO, an International Biosphere Reserve and a wetland of International importance. The Everglades National park is one of the largest national parks in the USA (third largest in southern USA). It is definitely a one of a kind park as most parks are protected to preserve certain geographic landmarks or endangered species of flora and fauna but the Everglades national park was protected to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the state of Florida which balances on extremes of drought during the dry season and extreme rainfall during the wet season.
On visiting the Everglades national park, one will be overwhelmed to witness the beauty of the environment and the exotic wildlife that prevails there. The hammock shores and beautiful mangrove and cypress trees will open your sight the raw beauty of untouched nature.
Endangered Species of the Everglades
The words “Endangered”, “Threatened” and “Extinct” are becoming far too common in our present vocabulary. The greed of man and growing necessities of the sprinting technological industries are rapidly increasing the rate of disappearance of certain species of flora and fauna. The protection of the everglades national park under the constituencies of USA and from the United Nations have ensured to protect the endangered animals local to the everglades ecosystem which are on the brink of extinction. Certain exotic trees and plants have also been introduced inside the everglades to protect them from extinction and also maybe increase their population in the rich wet climate of the everglades.
The following is a list of the most famous animals which are on the endangered list and protected and monitored constantly by concerned authorities (enclosed in the brackets are the scientific names):
- American crocodile (Crocodylusacutus)
- Green turtle (Cheloniamydas)
- Atlantic Ridley turtle (Lepidochelyskempi)
- Atlantic hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelysimbricata)
- Atlantic leatherback turtle (Dermochelyscoriacea)
- Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramusmaritima mirabilis)
- Snail (Everglades) kite (Rostrhamussociabilisplumbeus)
- Wood stork (Mycteriaamericana)
- West Indian manatee (Trichechusmanatus)
- Florida panther (Felisconcolorcoryi)
- Key Largo wood rat (Neotomafloridanasmalli)
- Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscusgossypinusallapaticola)
- Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
- Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Papilioaristodemusponceanus)
- Garber’s Spurge (Chamaesycegarberi)
Such wonders of nature are becoming such a rare sight in today’s world. Unnecessary expansion and industrialization must be avoided. One more main concern is that of hunting and selling of animal hides and skins. We must respect our nature because after all it is nature from which we have sprung out. By destroying life so simply, not only are we destroying what took thousands of years of selective evolution and development to come out, but we are indirectly affecting our own future on this planet.