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Everglades and the Ecosystem Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 16th, 2021

Introduction

Everglades refers to a complex system comprising of mutually supportive ecosystems. There is either very slight border between the ecosystems and sometimes they may not be noticed. The everglade systems may change by either expanding or reducing. It refers to a subtropical wetland in the state of Florida. The everglades are shaped by fire, water and rocks and are continuously changing. Over six thousand years ago, the everglade ecosystem was occupied by two major tribes (Jewell 1993).

Around two hundred years later the two tribes migrated with very little confirmation of their existence left behind. In the 19th century during, the United States military forced a certain tribe that had assimilated other people into their tribe to live in the everglades.

In 1848 there was a suggestion that the everglades be drained though there were no canals. The canals were constructed in the early 20th century making the drainage of the everglades possible. Later on the water was diverted to the cities of South Florida metropolitan area leaving the ever glades with no water. Half of the everglades were then turned into agricultural land. An environmental study oversaw that the ecosystem of south Florida would be when a proposed airport was constructed. Re-establishing the everglades was therefore found to be of great necessity.

Ecosystems

An ecosystem is a natural, physical environment i.e. water bodies, soil, rocks and dry land that consists of different plants, animals and micro organisms that interact with each other for the sake of their survival and functioning together with non living organisms within that environment. For example in an ecosystem, plants will not grow if there is no soil, water or enough light, if the plant fail to grow, animals that depend on plants for food will starve to death, and if they die all other animals that depend on them for food will also starve and die. All parts in the ecosystem therefore work together to create a balance and ensure the survival of each other.

Individuals within species interact by feeding, mating and living together. Individuals in different species also interact by feeding on each other i.e. animals feed on other animals through and interaction known as the food web. However plants are also included in this food web since animals fed on plants too. Ecosystem may include forests, deserts, plains, lakes, rivers, oceans and many others. An ecosystem is not specific in size, it could be very large e.g. a lake or very small e.g. a tree and all ecosystems whether small or large work in a similar way. It can therefore be defined as a geographical area that brings together plants, animals, climatic factors and landscape to interact.

Plants and animals within the ecosystem

Within the everglades, exists ecosystems. The main plant that grows in the ecosystem within the everglade is the saw grass marsh. They flourish in shallow slowly moving water. In deep water or floods where oxygen cannot reach its roots, the saw grass marsh dies away. The saw grass marsh has a hydro period of not below nine months. Animals like alligators may live in a place where there is dense growth of saw grass marsh. Intense growth of saw grass marsh gives less room for other plants and animals to live. However where the growth of saw grass marsh is penetrable, plants like periphyton grows.

Insects and amphibians that are used by birds, fish and other reptiles as food are sustained by periphyton. Apart from the periphyton, sloughs also grow where the growth of saw grass marsh allows for a free flow of water. They grow a bit deeper than the saw grass marshes and have a hydro period of at least eleven months. Sloughs support the existence of animals like fish, turtles, snakes and alligators. Other plants like spatterdock, bladderwort or water lily may also grow here though they may be submerged. In the everglade ecosystem, the Taylor slough, the shark river slough and the lostmans river slough are the major types of sloughs that grow their.

A wet prairie is another type of plant that grows within this ecosystem. Like the saw grass marshes it is a little bit raised diverse. It is mainly characterized by plant variety. Its hydro period lasts between three and seven months. It requires average shallow water. Wet prairies can sustain the growth other water plants and survival of aquatic animals like snails, young amphibians and crayfish which provide sources of food for young birds.

Within the wet prairies, alligators develop a place where they use their claws to dig at low spots and create ponds that do not have vegetation and remain dry even if the wet prairies dry up. The holes created by the alligator are essential for the life maintenance of small mammal, birds, turtles and fish during dry periods. In this ecosystem also grows the tropical hardwood hammocks. These are small islands of trees that grow on a slightly raised land above the wet prairies and the sloughs. The hardwood hammock constitutes both subtropical and hardwood trees like the royal pump, gumbo limbo, bustic and southern live oak.

At the base of the hardwood hammock, thrives saw palmettos which make it very difficult for people and other big animals to go through thus creating a perfect habitat for reptiles, small mammals and amphibians. Water in sloughs flow around the islands of hammocks developing into moats, which protect the trees when the hammocks that are affected by fire are still in the process of recovery. Most trees in hammocks do not grow tall since they heights are affected by wind, lighting and frost.

Another important feature in this ecosystem is the slash pine. This is mainly found in the pineland ecosystem. It requires fire for maintenance. They are able to uphold and defy fire using their adaptation features. The slash pines are found in the highest part of the everglades and have either very little or no hydro period. The slash pines have a hard back which protects them from heat giving them an advantage as the fire the fire get rid of the competing vegetation opening up their cones for germination.

Cypress is another important feature in the ecosystem. The cypress swamps are found through out the everglades. The big cypress swamp which constitutes a wide range of cypress growth is found to the west of the sloughs and the saw grass prairies. An example of cypress is the conifer which adapted to prosper in flooded areas. They have trunks propping to give support and protruding roots.

In the everglades also grows red mangrove trees. The everglades have a wide ranging continuous system of mangrove plants. Water from the big cypress and Lake Okeechobee flows into the ocean. The fresh water from the big cypress and from the lake mixes with the salty water in the ocean and forms a zone ideal for the growth of the mangrove trees since they are adapted to survive in both kinds of water (McCally 1999).

Recommendations as needed to maintain and restore the ecosystem

There is need to protect and restore the trees and forests of our nation. Several species and ecosystems seem to be endangered by human activities and should therefore be protected from any further misuse. Ecosystem restoration and maintenance is for the interest of our country as it gives us the value of trees in our communities. For this process of ecosystem to be successful different communities should be educated on issues relating to trees and forests. Public and private investment in tree and forest activities should be encouraged. Programs to train the public on the importance of the ecosystem on their daily undertakings should be developed.

A research on ecosystem should be made a civic science and community participation should be given a priority. There should be an improved funding towards enabling communities to evaluate the conditions of the ecosystem and to help them carry out implementation on various actions taken towards maintaining and restoring the ecosystem. Awareness should be created to the public on the ecological connection between communities living in urban and those living in the rural areas (Gleason 1994).

The public should be exposed to the benefits of private forests, educate them on the measures that are necessary for maintenance and restoration of the ecosystem and the rewards associated with it to private land owners. Those who own land privately should be given information relating to the ecological importance of their lands. There should an ecosystem work force involving community volunteers and people trained in the ecological field. They should conduct open programs and include other citizens’ in planning and implementation of the ecosystem restoration and maintenance projects.

Conclusion

An everglade is made up of ecosystems. An ecosystem is definitely a geographical unit that supports the life of both plants and animals through their own interaction. Plants and animals both support each other for food and therefore human beings are also supported by different plants and animals for food forming a life cycle. Without an ecosystem, this life cycle will not be possible and it is upon us to protect, restore and, maintain our ecosystem. This we can achieve by protecting our trees and trees.

Reference

Gleason, et.al. Stone Age, Origins, and Landscape Evolution of the Everglades, Peat land in Everglades: The Ecosystem and its Restoration. St. Lucie Press. 1994.

Jewell, S. Exploring Wild South Florida: A Guide to Finding the Natural Areas and Wildlife of the Everglades and Florida Keys. Pineapple Press, 1993.

McCally, David. The Everglades: An Environmental History. University Press of Florida. 1999.

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