In honor of World Wetlands Day, today’s “Places to Sea” is, fittingly, a wetland.
The Florida Everglades cover more than 4,300 square miles of the southern tip of Florida. Stretching from the state’s Gulf Coast to the Atlantic, it is an immense ecosystem consisting of forests, marshes, swamps and coastal wetlands.
A designated “Wetland of International Importance,” the area is home to a wide array of wildlife including panthers, crocodiles, alligators, snakes, manatees and over 350 bird species.
While the Everglades are primarily comprised of inland, non-tidal wetlands, they are bordered by two large coastal wetlands, the Ten Thousand Islands and Florida Bay. The Ten Thousand Islands rest on the National Park’s westernmost edge, along the Gulf of Mexico. The chain of islands, numbering more in the hundreds rather than “thousands” as the name suggests, is largely uninhabited and home to a National Wildlife Refuge.
Florida Bay, on the Atlantic coast, is a shallow bay (only 4-5 feet deep on average) full of mangrove trees and lush sea grass. The sea floor itself is lined with coral and sponge. Sea turtles and manatees are common marine residents of the 800 square mile bay.
Due to factors such as climate change and human impacts (pollution and development), the Everglades are currently undergoing a restoration project to improve the overall health of this expansive wetland. Approved in 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) has pledged an estimated 9.5 billion dollars in restoration efforts, which focus on redirecting fresh water to dryer marshes and bogs within the park.