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The Everglades is a wide and flat tropical river and mangrove swamp in the southern part of Florida near the city of Miami. The geography of the area is typical of a tropical river delta running slowly through a low-lying basin near sea level. The Everglades are covered by plants, and many animals live there. It is the only place in the world that crocodiles and alligators live together. The Everglades is a National Park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Everglades National Park is a national park in the U.S. state of Florida which protects the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and is visited on average by one million people each year.
It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has also been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance. It is one of only three parks in the world to appear on all three lists.
Unlike most U.S. national parks, Everglades National Park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem instead of safeguarding a unique geographic feature. The Everglades are wetlands created by a slow-moving river originating in Lake Okeechobee, fed by the Kissimmee River, and flowing southwest at about .25 miles (0.40 km) per day into Florida Bay. The park protects an interconnected network of marshland and forest ecosystems that are maintained by natural forces. Thirty-six species designated as threatened or protected live in the park, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee. The park protects the largest U.S. wilderness area east of the Mississippi River. It is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, and contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere. More than 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles live within Everglades National Park. All of South Florida's fresh water, which is stored in the Biscayne Aquifer, is recharged in the park.
Diversion and quality of water
Less than 50 percent of the Everglades which existed before drainage remains today. Populations of wading birds dwindled 90 percent from their original numbers between the 1940s and 2000s. The diversion of water to South Florida's still-growing metropolitan areas is the Everglades National Park's number one threat. In the 1950s and 1960s, 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canals and levees, 150 gates and spillways, and 16 pumping stations were constructed to direct water toward cities and away from the Everglades.
Low levels of water leave fish vulnerable to reptiles and birds, and as sawgrass dries it can burn or die off, which in turn kills apple snails and other animals that wading birds feed upon. Populations of birds fluctuate; in 2009, the South Florida Water Management District claimed wading birds across South Florida increased by 335%. However, following three years of higher numbers, The Miami Herald reported the same year that populations of wading birds within the park decreased by 29%.
The west coast of Florida relies on desalination for its fresh water; the need for water is too great for the land to provide.
- UNESCO, "Everglades National Park"; retrieved 2012-4-18.
- "Park Statistics". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/ever/parkmgmt/statistics.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Maltby E. & P.J. Dugan 1994. "Wetland ecosystem management and restoration: an international perspective" in Everglades: the ecosystem and its restoration. Steven Davis and John Ogden, eds. St. Lucie Press. ISBN 0-9634030-2-8
- Whitney, p. 167
- "Everglades National Park". National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Robertson, p. 27, 21, 38
- Grunwald, p. 202.
- National Park Service (2005). "Everglades." (Brochure)
- SFWMD (2010), p. 6-1.
- Sessa, Whitney 2009. Taking a dive: the wading bird population at Everglades National Park dropped by 29 percent in 2008...", The Miami Herald, State and Regional News.