The approximately 6000 km² national park is located in the largest contiguous swamp grass landscape in North America, the Everglades. It is located on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and is a unique ecosystem for plants and animals. Alligators, turtles and snakes live here. The bird world includes the only wild flamingos in the USA, waders, ibises and pelicans. There are also over 200 archaeological sites in the park. Since the water of the Everglades is polluted by fertilizers or serves to supply the neighboring cities with drinking water, the world heritage has been on the red list since 2010.
Everglades National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Everglades National Park|
|Natural monument:||since 1947 national park with 200 archaeological sites; on an area of 5929.2 km² a subtropical mosaic of surprising biodiversity and a wetland of international importance; In 2010 again (as in 1993) placed on the »Red List« of the World Heritage in Danger due to the persistent loss of quality of the water system|
|Location:||Southern tip of the Florida Peninsula, southwest of Miami, 10 miles from Florida City|
|Meaning:||the largest contiguous swamp grass landscape in North America populated by the Cladium jamaicensis and habitat of 14 endangered species|
|Flora and fauna:||950 predominantly tropical plant species, 65 of which are native to South Florida only; 25 species of orchids, 120 tree species, three different mangroves, 36 threatened and endangered animal species such as the Mississippi alligator, the American crocodile, the Florida panther and the manatees that live in the water, almost 350 different bird species such as the blue jay, the Beach hammerfinch and the bald eagle; 60 amphibians and reptiles, including the endangered indigo snake Drymarchon corais|
River made of grass
When the most rainfall falls between May and November, the flat land of the Everglades turns into a bankless swamp. The water masses of the overflowing Okeechobee Lake flow over 200 km south to Florida Bay. Soon afterwards this “amphibious world” falls dry again – before the next rain pours down in the changing seasons. Flooding and drying out, coupled with frost-free temperatures, form the basis for a unique abundance of plants and animals.
Often only a few centimeters deep, the 80 km wide stream of water with the »sawgrass« is a »river of grass«. There are scattered tree islands like oases with a colorful mixture of bald cypresses, royal palms, evergreen oaks and strangler figs. Overgrown with Louisiana moss, orchids and epiphytes, they form small groves, so-called “hammocks”. On higher ground, Elliotts pines form light forests, and a wide belt of various mangrove species has settled on the coasts. These mangroves are a huge natural breeding tank. Snails, mussels and crabs find food and protection between their stilt roots. Sea turtles and countless fish use them for mating and as a nursery. The round-tailed manatees also live in the warm shallow water of the estuaries and coasts. rare and therefore strictly protected nail manatees. The feathered wildlife of the Everglades is at least as diverse. Rhinoceros and brown pelicans, roseate spoonbills, ibises and darters are just as at home here as the rare helmeted woodpecker, barred owl, snail harrier and forest stork. Truly the uncrowned kings of the Everglades, however, are certainly the massive Mississippi alligators.
These gloomy “knights of the swamps” can grow up to six meters long. Nobody is safe from them, because almost everyone is eaten: fish, water snakes, small mammals, crabs and every now and then a conspecific. Their fearsome teeth are not very suitable for chopping up prey. If this cannot be swallowed in one piece, it is thrown into the air by jerky head and body movements and turned, turned in the churned water and in this way torn into edible portions.
Hardly any of the countless visitors want to miss the thrill of watching a Mississippi alligator catch their prey. That was not always so. As a result of ruthless shooting until the 1960s, these primeval reptiles became so rare that they had to be placed under protection. Since then, their stocks have recovered. Almost two million armored lizards should now be back. Too many, said the authorities and issued licenses to shoot outside of the existing protected areas.
The entire southern part of the Florida swamps is part of the Everglades National Park. The Big Cypress National Preserve connects to the north. Together, these two sanctuaries cover over 8,000 km², making up slightly more than half of the area submerged annually by Lake Okeechobee. Beyond their borders, however, more and more dams, canals and retention basins threaten to let the water flow dry up. For decades, the precious liquid has been diverted for growing cities and agriculture. Many animals have disappeared or become so rare that their extinction is only a matter of time. In addition, wastewater, fertilizers and pesticides pollute the “river of grass”. It has only been a few years now that people have been rethinking and investing billions in trying to to undo past sins and restore the natural water balance. The battle for the Everglades has not yet been won, but their chances of survival have increased.