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A Region Under Stress-- Home
A Region Under Stress-- Introduction

Environmental Setting-- The Natural System
Watersheds and Coastal Waters

Environmental Setting-- The Altered System
Drainage and Development
Public Lands
Water Use
Water Budget

Water and Environmental Stress
Loss of Wetlands and Wetland Functions
Soil Subsidence
Degradation of Water Quality
Mercury Contamination
Effects on Estuaries, Bays, and Coral Reefs

Summary and Research Needs

Related Links

Download Circular 1134 PDF

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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Circular 1134

The South Florida Environment - A Region Under Stress

Environmental Setting--
The Altered System

Photo of observation tower
Observation tower (looking south) at Everglades National Park; Shark River Slough on the horizon. Click on image to open larger picture (62.6k).

Public Lands

Today, a fragmented part of the old, predevelopment landscape exists in south Florida at the southern end of the peninsula. Most of this area is wetlands (fig. 14) and is in public ownership or under public control (fig. 3). These lands include Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the water-conservation areas, the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and other State lands.

Parts of the Everglades were set aside for preservation and protection of wildlife by the Federal Government in the mid-1900's. The Everglades National Park was established in 1947 on marshland south of the WCA's and now covers about 1.4 million acres. The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1951 in WCA-1 and covers 145,000 acres. The refuge, park, and the other WCA's contain most of the remaining natural Everglades.

Everglades National Park depends on seasonal flows of good-quality freshwater from outside its boundaries from such sources as the headwaters of the Shark River and the Taylor Sloughs. However, flows into the park from these sloughs have been greatly altered. Federal legislation was passed in 1968 to assure that a minimum monthly water delivery be made to the park. With the minimum flows, however, the wetlands and the aquatic animals in the park still suffered from lack of water in dry periods. Also, the legislation did not protect the park from receiving too much water in extremely wet years. Water delivery to the park is now based on rainfall measurements to the north of the park and mimics natural seasonal flow, but does not provide the prolonged flows and hydroperiods of the predevelopment Everglades when flows were attenuated from one wet season into the next dry season (Davis and others, 1994). Also, water releases to the park are, for the most part, outside the natural flow path in the Shark River Slough. In addition to alterations in flow, deterioration of water quality in the northern Everglades through nutrient enrichment also threatens the integrity of the park (Amador and others, 1992).

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