EVERGLADES HUMMER ADVENTURES!! FLORIDA'S BEST OFF-ROAD EXPERIENCE IN LUXURY!!
The Everglades are subtropical wetlands located in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large watershed. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades are shaped by water and fire, experiencing frequent flooding in the wet season and drought in the dry season. Also known as the "River of Grass" to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay.
Human habitation in the southern portion of the Florida peninsula dates to 15,000 years ago. Two major tribes eventually formed in and around Everglades ecosystems: the Calusa and the Tequesta. After coming into contact with the Spanish in the late 16th century, both tribes declined gradually during the following two centuries. The Seminoles, a tribe of Creeks who assimilated other peoples into their own, made their living in the Everglades region after being forced there by the U.S. military in the Seminole Wars of the 19th century.
Draining the Everglades was first suggested in 1848, but was not attempted until 1882. Canals were constructed throughout the first half of the 20th century, and spurred the South Florida economy, prompting land development. However, problems with canals and floods caused by hurricanes forced engineers to rethink their drainage plans. In 1947, Congress formed the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, which built 1,400 miles of canals, levees, and water control devices. The South Florida metropolitan area grew substantially at this time and Everglades water was diverted to cities. Portions of the Everglades were transformed into farmland, where the primary crop was sugarcane.
Approximately 50 percent of the original Everglades has been turned into agricultural or urban areas. When the construction of a large airport was proposed 6 miles north of Everglades National Park, an environmental study predicted it would destroy the South Florida ecosystem. Restoring the Everglades then became a priority.
National and international attention turned to the environment in the 1970s, and UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention designated the Everglades as one of only three wetland areas of global importance. Restoration began in the 1980s with the removal of a canal that straightened the Kissimmee River. The water quality of Lake Okeechobee, a water source for South Florida, became a significant concern. The deterioration of the environment was also linked to the diminishing quality of life in South Florida's urban areas. In 2000, a plan to restore the Everglades was approved by Congress; to date, it is the most expensive and comprehensive environmental repair attempt in history. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was signed into law, but the same divisive politics that had affected the region for the previous 50 years have compromised the plan.
The Everglades also face an ongoing threat from the melaleuca tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia), because they take water in greater amounts than other trees. Melaleucas grow taller and more densely in the Everglades than in their native Australia, making them unsuitable as nesting areas for birds with wide wingspans. They also choke out native vegetation. More than $2 million has been spent on keeping them out of Everglades National Park.
Brazilian pepper, or Florida holly (Schinus terebinthifolius), has also wreaked havoc on the Everglades, exhibiting a tendency to spread rapidly and to crowd out native species of plants as well as to create inhospitable environments for native animals. It is especially difficult to eradicate and is readily propagated by birds, which eat its small red berries. The Brazilian Pepper problem is not exclusive to the Everglades; neither is the water hyacinth, which is a widespread problem in Florida's waterways, a major threat to endemic species, and is difficult and costly to eradicate. The Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) may be causing the most harm to restoration as it blankets areas thickly, making it impossible for animals to pass through. It also climbs up trees and creates "fire ladders", allowing parts of the trees to burn that would otherwise remain unharmed.
Many pets have escaped or been released into the Everglades from the surrounding urban areas. Some find the conditions quite favorable and have established self-sustaining populations, competing for food and space with native animals. Many tropical fish have been released, but blue tilapias (Oreochromis aureus) cause damage to shallow waterways by creating large nests and consuming aquatic plants that protect native young fish.
Native to southern Asia, the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is a relatively new invasive species in the Everglades. The species can grow up to 20 feet (6.1 m) long and they compete with alligators for the top of the food chain. Florida wildlife officials speculate that escaped pythons have begun reproducing in an environment for which they are well-suited.
The invasive species that causes the most damage is the cat, both domestic and feral. Cats that are let outside live close to suburban populations and have been estimated to number 640 per square mile. In such close numbers in historic migratory areas, they have devastating effects on migratory bird populations.