The first key issue that creates an environmental problem in our areas is water quality.
Over the past fifty years, the water quality in South Florida has deteriorated. The wetlands serve as natural filters and more than half of the holding areas and these wetlands are gone. With the growing population, the quality of water has resulted in harmful changes which have a negative impact on the environment. High amounts of phosphorus have degraded the water quality. The Everglades consists of animals and natural plants that thrive off of low phosphorus levels. The high levels will degrade the Everglades, rather than protecting them. The quality of water the Everglades receives is not at a level at which the ecosystem and habitats in this area are safe.
This qualifies as an environmental problem because the changes in water have become harmful to the Everglades’ natural environment. This will result in a decline of the health of the ecosystem. The ecology of the Everglades is such that it thrives on low concentration levels of phosphorus in the water supply. High levels of nutrients such as phosphorus, sulfur, and mercury can have a dramatic effect on the patterns of fauna and flora and can accumulate to dangerous levels affecting fish and wildlife. Over the years, agricultural and urban lands have converted the Everglades and the rest of the area has become water conservation areas. Fertilizer and other chemicals have entered these conservation areas through runoff. This contributes to the low quality of water which enters the system and changes the composition of vegetation and is destructive to the species of animals and the native plants that live there.
This is relevant to the curriculum because better water quality will support the wildlife and protect the Everglades for years to come. Water is the greatest influence on the ecosystem of South Florida. There has been a deterioration of the quality of water entering the ecosystem. This ecosystem has suffered because it does not move freely through the system and it doesn’t follow the timing of the natural way the Everglades was created. There is a serious threat to the plants, animals, and wildlife that live there. Due to changes in the habitat, many plants and animals are at risk of extinction. Clean water is not available to many of the fish and wildlife that make their home in the bays and estuaries.
The quality of water in the Everglades interests me because I feel it is important to restore and maintain the quality of life in this area so it is preserved for years to come. I enjoy spending time in the Everglades fishing and seeing the variety of plants and wildlife. If the quality of the water is poor, it will have a negative impact in the ecosystem and its beauty. I want to be able to see the threatened and endangered species to be preserved and healthy. It is upsetting to see different types of pollutants and fertilizers entering the water from cities and other agricultural areas. The area needs to be protected and steps need to be taken to ensure this beautiful habitat is preserved.
Possible solutions include:
• Encourage the state and local government to construct additional storm water treatment areas to remove phosphorus from the water before going into the Everglades.
• Encourage farmers to decrease the amount of sulfate and phosphorus which is put on their agricultural fields since these harmful chemicals enter the canals and are eventually discharged into the Everglades.
• Gain a better understanding of how the Everglades is affected by contaminants and assist in designing strategies to restore the ecosystem.
• Come up with a plan that addresses the timing, quantity, quality, and the way in which water is distributed throughout the Everglades.
• In order to make the freshwater supplies that currently exist last longer, water can be conserved so the septic and sewer system is not being overloaded. This will help in protecting the environment.
The second key issue that creates an environmental problem in South Florida is urban development.
More than half of the Everglades have been destroyed due to pressures from development of industry, urban areas, and agriculture. South Florida has a rapidly growing population which puts pressure on the environment. Over the next fifty years, millions of acres of natural land will end up becoming urban space. With this development, there is a threat to the Everglades. Years ago, much of the land in this area was undeveloped. Mangroves and estuaries were protected and natural freshwater supported these areas. Due to recent urban development, natural systems have become negatively affected.
This qualifies as an environmental problem because by expanding urban areas, many of the plants and animals are being relocated to different areas. Degradation of their habitats occurs and thousands of acres of land will become roads and urban areas. Due to this loss of habitat, many endangered species in the Everglades are not guaranteed a home. With the increase in population, freshwater is required. The Everglades is being drained because the ground and surface water is being diverted to satisfy the needs of the population. The ecosystem suffers from a limited supply of clean water. As the population and development continue to rapidly grow, natural systems become more at risk of destruction.
This relates to the curriculum because urban development will affect the future of the Everglades. The Everglades is already half of its original size and due to the increase of development, the future of the ecosystem is at risk. As the population grows, there will be an increase in the amount of pollution which is harmful to the environment. Water quality has changed over the years due to development and has been diverted for industrial uses. This has had a negative impact on the ecological balance of this area. Agricultural development alters natural vegetation and the wildlife habitats that are connected to it.
The topic of urban development interests me because I am able to witness firsthand the negative affects the growth has had over the years. When I see the changes that have taken place in the Everglades due to urbanization, I can understand the problems that it has created. As development increases, the Everglades and the habitats within it become greatly at risk of destruction. If this land is lost, the population within South Florida will lose its source of clean water. There are also a variety of species that inhabit this vast land and depend on it for survival. The Everglades have become known as the heart of South Florida and it is difficult to observe how it is being destroyed over the years.
Possible solutions include:
• Encourage city leaders to use urban planning techniques so that they can create areas in a less harmful way.
• Donate to CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan) as a way of supporting their efforts of restoring and protecting the Everglades ecosystem.
• Encourage the public in playing a more active role in attending meetings and voicing their concerns when development in their community is being discussed.
• Encourage leaders to limit the development of protected areas and ensure that laws protecting natural lands are being followed.