Will The Gator Glades Survive?

A visit to the Florida Everglades reveals how that famed wildlife region is now threatened with destruction because of man’s tampering with the natural water system.

The Everglades and Lake Okeechobee water systems are still under duress. 40 years of human development, even with environment protections, have placed enormous pressure on the water systems. Since 1970, there have been some restorative changes to the area. In 1971, Congress mandated a minimum flow of water into the region, to protect the wildlife. In 1979, 107,600 acres were added to Everglades National Park. But the park is still challenged by water quality issues, invasive species, mercury pollution and agricultural runoff.

Roseate Spoonbills

In the 1930s, the Spoonbill population had been reduced to around 30 birds in the entire state of Florida. With careful management, the number peaked at around 1400 pairs in 1978, but has been steadily declining in the past 30 years, reaching modern-era record lows. Rising sea levels will also affect the spoonbill habitats, and some migration out of the region has already started to occur.

The Florida Key Deer (who are on the ICN Red list for endangered species) are still quite threatened in the Keys region. Population estimates still hover between 300-800 deer, and they are confined mostly to one preserve in the Keys. Rising sea levels will also affect this habitat greatly. A Court decision in 2008 expanded the protections for this species.

The alligator hit record low population numbers in 1967, but increased protections helped the species enough that it was removed from the endangered species list in 1987. The ecosystems that support the alligator, in particular the water management that provides the “alligator holes” discussed in the episode means the ‘holes’ are still threatened.