Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Nature: Environmental Issues
With all the beauty of Florida nature, comes the responsibility of  keeping the state eco-friendly for all it's wildlife inhabitants. Florida has long been one of the fastest growing states in the country, but the price of this growth has been steep. Sprawling development has carved wildlife habitat into smaller and smaller pieces, divided by highways or paved over altogether for shopping malls and office parks -- threatening state symbols such as the Florida panther and the Florida black bear. Many of Florida's coastal marshes and barrier islands -- home to endangered wildlife such as manatees, wood storks and loggerhead sea turtles -- have been transformed into marinas and condominiums. The Everglades, a unique ecosystem that is home to 68 federally endangered or threatened plant and animal species, has already lost half of its area to agricultural and urban development and continues to face pressure from South Florida's booming development.

Clean Water- Chances are, you've made Florida your home because of the breathtaking environment, great climate and access to abundant lakes, rivers and shore. Unfortunately, this precious resource that we hold so dear is in big trouble. Industrial and municipal facilities throughout Florida discharge large amounts of toxic chemicals and other pollution into our waters. This degrades the places we fish and swim, contaminates our drinking water, and threatens our health.

Land Preservation- The lush mangrove and sawgrass marshes of south Florida are the last of a great wilderness that, until the 20th century, stretched for hundreds of miles.  Our Everglades shelter countless species, including endangered Florida panthers, Cape Sable seaside sparrows and American crocodiles. But this natural wonder is besieged.  Fifty years of encroaching development have disrupted natural water flows, harmed wildlife with pollution run-off and destroyed 50 percent of the Everglades' unique, species-rich wetlands. Like the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, the Everglades is a cherished part of the American landscape.  Over time, however, this unique ecosystem has experienced the negative effects of human development - loss of wetlands, disrupted timing and flows of water, deterioration of water quality, reductions in wading birds and other species, declining lake and estuary health, and loss of native habitat to exotic species. In the 1980s, Miami-Dade County planners created the Urban Development Boundary to stop development that would disrupt natural water flows, harm wildlife with pollution run-off and destroy the Everglades' unique, species-rich wetlands. The intention was to direct development in a way protects the Everglades and other areas that are vital for agriculture and natural habitat, that help to replenish our drinking water supply, and help control floods during major hurricanes. A recent deal between the state of Florida and US Sugar to purchase vast areas of land near Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration is good news.

The Green Swamp- The real liquid heart of Florida is the 560,000 acre Green Swamp, which includes portions of Polk, Lake, Sumter, Pasco, and Hernando counties, which lies over and feeds the Green Swamp potentiometric high. The Green Swamp potentiometric high rises up to 132 feet above mean sea level near Polk City and, like a water tower, provides the underground pressure to a multitude of free-flowing springs, the base flow of five major rivers, and hydologic support for countless lakes, ponds, seeps, and wetlands. Its ground water pressure supplies water to the majority of Florida's population and prevents salt-water intrusion into the aquifer along the heavily populated east and west coasts. The incredibly gradual slope of the Green Swamp plateau retains annual rains, reduces the flood peaks in the rivers, and allows the aquifer to recharge over an extended period of time. The wetlands of five river systems: the Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha, Hillsborough, Peace and Kissimmee provide invaluable wildlife habitat and are Florida's foremost wildlife corridor. The five major river systems reach from the Swamp to all corners of the state from Ft. Lauderdale to Yankeetown and Jacksonville to Flamingo. The water supply is especially vulnerable to groundwater pollution because the Floridian Aquifer is very close to the surface here and is exposed through porous sand, lime rock out croppings, and mines. Development and the habitat fragmentation caused by transportation and utility corridors are still major threats to the Green Swamp. Agricultural practices have historically drained wetlands and over-used surface and groundwater supplies. The draining of wetlands, the destruction of upland and wetland forests, poor soil conservation practices, and over pumping reduces the quality and quantity of water available to recharge the Floridian Aquifer and to ecosystems downstream of the Swamp.

Off Shore Drilling- Oceans cover over two-thirds of the earth's surface, helping to control the planet’s weather and containing a rich variety of life forms. Yet our oceans are in deep trouble. Offshore drilling, destructive overfishing, coastal pollution from fertilizers and toxic materials, habitat destruction from bottom trawling, coastal dredging and filling, and rising ocean temperatures all effect the ocean’s health and ability to bounce back from changes. To restore the oceans to health, Environment Florida supports a moratorium on new offshore drilling, a halt to destructive overfishing, establishment of marine protected areas, policies to reduce the flow of nutrients and toxics into coastal waters, and aggressive action on global warming.

Lawn Care- One of the many environmental issues in Florida stems from lawn care. There are currently five million acres of lawns in the state. “Most people are watering more during the rainy season,” Monaghan said. “Those who have an irrigation system often overwater.” Fertilizers and insecticides used in lawn care often run off into our water systems, causing damage not only to the water quality, but to all flora and fauna along the water system.
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