Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

New urgency in fight to restore Florida Everglades
Miami (AFP) Feb 27, 2017

Rising seas, polluted coastlines and the specter of more frequent droughts and storms have lent new urgency to efforts to restore the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades, the largest freshwater wetland in the United States.

The Everglades' sawgrasses, swamps, tree islands and mangroves are home to a host of fascinating species, from American alligators to endangered hook-billed birds known as snail kites to invasive Burmese pythons.

Until now, the world's largest ecosystem restoration project -- a massive plan expected to spend some $10.5 billion, known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan -- has made little progress since it was launched in 2000.

"Our goal was to have much of it done in 20 years," said Steve Davis, a wetlands ecologist with the Everglades Foundation, who led reporters on an airboat tour of the Everglades this month.

"We are almost 20 years in and we don't have a single project completed."

- Water flow stopped -

Even though the Everglades is known as the River of Grass, the water has not properly flowed through it in the past 70 years or so, because human development cordoned off the freshwater which used to spill over from Florida's massive Lake Okeechobee toward the south.

As millions of people poured into the Sunshine State, a dike was built to protect against hurricane flooding and swamps were drained to make way for sugar cane farms.

About one third of the Everglades' original three million acres (405,000 of 1.2 million hectares) became farmland, and 1.5 million acres were designated a national park.

"We altered the ecosystem back in the '40s and '50s when we didn't know any better," said Bob Johnson, a hydrologist with the National Park Service.

"Now we have to fix it."

- Polluted coasts -

The consequences of diverting Lake Okeechobee's water -- much of it polluted by agricultural discharge -- to the east and west have grown increasingly dire.

Last year, algae blooms coated the coastline with smelly, guacamole-colored sludge, and swimmers were warned to stay out of the water due to outbreaks of poisonous bacteria.

Meanwhile, the spread of hot and salty water off the southern tip of Florida killed fertile fish breeding grounds known as seagrasses, threatening tourism and fishing -- two key drivers of the state economy.

"There is simply not enough water coming in from the north to keep the entire system hydrated from top to bottom," said Davis.

The movement of freshwater from the lake toward the south must be restored if the area's tourist economy, drinking water and natural and developed lands are to be sustained in the years to come, he said.

- Saltwater intrusion -

Without some two million more acre feet -- an old measure devised by imagining a foot of water on an acre (0.4 hectare) of land -- of freshwater to drench the Everglades, the marshes dry out, the thin layer of peat covering the porous limestone ground dissipates or even burns under the hot sun, and the landscape flattens making it easier for saltwater to invade, Johnson told a meeting of the Tropical Audubon Society this month.

Saltwater intrusion is already making its way into parts of Florida's aquifers -- which provide drinking water -- and could forever alter the Everglades' fragile ecosystem.

Having more freshwater in the system could help because it "pushes against the saltwater and keeps those marshes wet," explained Johnson.

"It helps stave off the effects of sea level rise."

- Political progress -

Scientists like Davis and Johnson say the solution requires having more land south of the lake -- an area filled with sugar cane farms -- to use as storage reservoirs where water can be cleaned before flowing south.

"If we don't figure out how to store more water, we can't get through the problems to come. We can't get through long droughts and then very intense rainfall," said Johnson.

After years of political squabbles, there are signs that lawmakers are motivated to fix the problem.

Bills have been newly introduced in the Florida House and Senate to authorize over one billion in state dollars to acquire 60,000 acres of land for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that would hold 120 billion gallons (454 billion liters) of water.

But more than a dozen farming companies in the area have dug in their heels, including sugar giants US Sugar and Florida Crystals, saying they are not willing to sell, questioning the science behind the proposals, and warning of job losses if land acquisition goes ahead.

Criticisms of the plan and its priority on finding storage south of Lake Okeechobee have also emerged from the South Florida Water Management District, which is made up of political appointees of Republican Governor Rick Scott, a well-known skeptic of climate change.

A review of the Everglades restoration plans by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS), issued in December 2016, found that more money and water is urgently needed, because the effects of climate change were not considered in the restoration plans when they were released in 2000.

And with global sea levels expected to rise by 40 inches (one meter) or more by century's end, there is no time to waste.

"If you change nothing now, if you do things as planned, you are going to run into serious flooding issues," said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Maryland and leader of the NAS committee's climate change-related research efforts.

"Those effects are occurring on the timescale of a few decades."

Plan to save Great Barrier Reef set back decades: experts
Sydney (AFP) Feb 24, 2017
Australia's plan to rescue the beleaguered Great Barrier Reef has been set back at least two decades after the fragile ecosystem suffered its worst-ever bleaching last year, experts said Friday. The vast coral reef - which provides a tourism boon for Australia - is under pressure from agricultural run-off, the crown-of-thorns starfish, development and climate change. Last year swathes ... read more

Related Links
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Haitians' ire over carnival spending amid hurricane's ruins

Carnival helps Rio put crime, recession on back burner

Study shows parks, greenways may help reduce crime in Chicago

Canada conservationist warns of 'cyber poaching

Two radar eyes are better than one

New use for paper industry's sludge and fly ash in plastics

Scientists discover how essential methane catalyst is made

New polymer additive could revolutionize plastics recycling

Calculating recharge of groundwater more precisely

New urgency in fight to restore Florida Everglades

Saab to provide support for Swedish navy underwater systems

First direct measurements of Pacific seabed sediments reveal strong methane source

Air pollution may have masked mid-20th Century sea ice loss

International team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean

Arctic sea ice decline influences European weather

Simple rule predicts when an ice age ends

Widely accepted vision for agriculture may be inaccurate, misleading

'Our daily bread' has hidden climate costs

What's the buzz on bee parasites?

Brexit sows seeds of doubt for British farmers

An insight into a physical phenomenon that leads to earthquakes

Water slowly restored in Chile capital after deadly floods

California requests $440 mn for flood control after dam crisis

Four million without water in deadly Chile floods

France sends backup to Niger after 16 troops killed

UN airstrikes in C.Africa target 'heavily armed' militia

16 killed in three days of DR Congo clashes

I.Coast hosting bid to save its last chimpanzees

Newfound primate teeth take a big bite out of the evolutionary tree of life

Study shows ancient humans arrived in South America in multiple waves

Will naming the Anthropocene lead to acceptance of our planet-level impact

Tiny fibers open new windows into the brain

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement