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The Florida Everglades and Surrounding Human Population

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Human Population Growth and Ecosystem Impacts

The Florida Everglades is a complex ecosystem located in Southern Florida that is being hurt by human population growth. It is one of the largest wetlands in the world and used to be part of a watershed hundreds of years ago. The “historic Everglades” spanned more than 3,000,000 acres from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. However, it started to shrink when settlers came in the early 1900’s and used the Everglades’ water for agricultural purposes and to use the land for houses. Current population growth, along with agriculture, means that more water is needed from the Everglades (NASA, http://www.cotf.edu/ete/modules/everglades/FEeverglades1.html). Human population growth is due to new health technology advances. Doctors and scientists have developed many medicines, cures, and medical devices to help prolong human life. Medicine and cures have been developed for illnesses and fatal diseases. Medical devices have been developed to aid in surgery and for other medical purposes. The US life expectancy has risen drastically due to these technologies. This means humans live longer, and the population therefore rises (Gluckman, http://ezinearticles.com/?New-Medical-Inventions&id=278022). Diagnostic ultrasound and Doppler ultrasound tests for pregnant women allow doctors to see if there is a lack of heartbeat or a fetus defect. If caught in time, problems can be fixed and the baby will be saved. This causes a higher birth rate, which means the human population grows (Medical and Nursing Training, http://www.medicalandnursing-training.com/medical-technician-schools/ultrasound-diagnostics/a/advances-in-ultrasound-diagnostics-technology.html). New technologies improve the safety of food. Food borne illness due to bacteria is still a major problem, but new technologies have been developed to substantially reduce or eliminate the bacteria with the most risk of fatality, called L. monocytogenes. Technologies that rid food of E. coli bacteria have also been developed. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the Food Safety Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture have taken measures to prevent illness caused by bacteria-filled food. They established a “zero tolerance” for L. monocytogenes in foods. These new food safety technologies mean that less people fall ill due to food contamination and the population therefore increases (Intralytix, http://www.intralytix.com/Intral_Food.htm).

The Florida Everglades can be classified as a freshwater/wetland ecosystem. It spans two million acres of Florida, from Lake Okeechobee in central Florida south to the Florida Basin. In the Everglades’ wet season, Lake Okeechobee overflows and sends water slowly via the “River of Grass” through the Everglades, down to the Everglades National Park and the Florida Bay. The Everglades provides drinking water for south Florida as well as water for agricultural purposes. It purifies the water by filtering out pollutants and absorbing the nutrients. The animals the Everglades is most recognized for are the Florida panthers, crocodiles, manatees, and its many different bird species-there are over 350 species in the Everglades National Park alone. The Florida panther, however, is the most endangered animal in the Everglades-there are only a total of eighty left. The variety of habitats in the Everglades means that they hold an assortment of plant and animal species (National Wildlife Federation, http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wild-Places/Everglades.aspx/).

In the past 100 years, human populations have increased drastically in the South Florida region due to increased tourism. Because of this extreme population growth, many parts of the wetlands of the Everglades were drained, and land was cleared for agricultural purposes. The U.S. government created the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, due to hurricanes in 1947. As a result of this project, all of the Northern quarter of the Everglades was drained completely. Despite the fact that the Everglades National Park was created in 1934 and dedicated in 1947, human population in the Everglades region, and damage to the ecosystem itself still continued. The wildlife in the area has been greatly affected. The population of wading birds in the wetlands has decreased by over 90% along with 54 plant species that are listed as endangered. Organisms such as Snail Kites and Wood Stocks are endangered along with the shrimp and other commercially important fish in the region (Bancroft, http://www.aaas.org/international/ehn/biod/banc.htm).

As it stands, human population continues to grow in the region. The Everglades is listed as a Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage site, and a Wetland of International Importance in the Ramsar Convention. There are only two other places in the world that are on all three lists. However, even though the Everglades are on these lists, destruction continues, irreversible effects have already come about (Bancroft, http://www.aaas.org/international/ehn/biod/banc.htm). More than half of the Everglades wetlands have been destroyed, along with the unique species and environment. However, there has been a recent deal between Florida and U.S. Sugar to purchase large amounts of land near Lake Okeechobee to use for Everglades restoration. In conclusion, the Everglades has suffered outstanding losses as a whole, but great efforts are being made to restore the ecosystem and its wildlife (Environment Florida, http://www.environmentflorida.org/preservation/saving-the-everglades).

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