Once Parched, Florida’s Everglades Finds Its Flow Again

Photo+Courtesy+of+npr.org

Photo Courtesy of npr.org

When people talk about Florida’s Everglades, they often use superlatives: It’s the largest protected wilderness east of the Mississippi River, and it’s the biggest subtropical wetland in North America.

Areas of Everglades National Park that used to be wet year-round started to dry out for months at a time. Over decades, Johnson says, a key part of the ecosystem dried up  organic peat soils, reported Bob Johnson hydrologist in the everglades.

“On the western side, we’re at about 10.3 feet, and if we walk over here to the eastern side, water level on this side is about 7 1/2,” he says. “So you’ve got almost a 3-foot difference in water levels.

Although it was built as a road, it soon became apparent that Tamiami Trail was also a dam, blocking water that flowed from Lake Okeechobee south through the Everglades to Florida Bay, reported npr.com.

“As the peat soils disappear, the vegetation community changes. We lose the food source for small fish and macroinvertebrates,” Johnson says. “We don’t have the buildup of the algal communities we had historically that are kind of the base for the food chain here “, stated npr.com.

Johnson is pleased that all the money and work are beginning to produce results. Another key part of the restoration, the Central Everglades Planning Project, could begin delivering a lot more water within a few years — by 2020, he says.