Impacts on Plants and Animals

Problems connected with the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water throughout the Everglades ecosystem have a huge impact on the region's plants and animals. Numbers of wading birds, including wood storks that nest in the Everglades, have declined since the 1930s. Florida’s shellfish industry in Florida Bay also has been impacted due to these problems.

Wet and Dry Seasons

Many animals are specifically adapted to the alternating wet and dry seasons. When humans control the water supply and do not time it correctly with natural patterns, the species suffer. Alligators build their nests at the high-water level. If more water is released into the park, their nests are flooded and their eggs destroyed.  Endangered snail kites feed on the aquatic apple snail. Low water conditions reduce apple snail and snail kite populations. Snails lay eggs above water in the wet season. If managers release more water, the snails fail to reproduce. The main goal of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is to improve and sustain quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water throughout the ecosystem. In doing so, a more natural hydropattern will return and native plants and animals will be able to thrive in their habitats.

Indicator Species

An Indicator Species is an organism, species or community which indicates the presence of certain environmental conditions. The presence, or lack thereof, communicates essential information about the ecological condition of a water body and can help determine which restoration efforts are working well and which ones are not. If efforts are going well, the species will return. Native indicator species include dominant terrestrial and aquatic plants, forage and sport fish, wading birds, waterfowl and alligators. Indicator species within a habitat are monitored for population abundance, diversity and condition.

Exotic Species

Native trees, such as mangroves and cypress, are being replaced by exotic or introduced species from other countries. As the Everglades yield to human-introduced plants and fish, native species diminish. A very important element of CERP is the removal of exotic species. This project is well underway, removing introduced melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and other species at an accelerated rate.

View a list of species found in the Everglades.

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Last updated: January 27, 2009