New Restoration Plan Kicked Off on Earth Day

restorationThis past Earth Day, the Everglades received great news – a new bridge will be built to restore the flow of water flowing into Everglades National Park.

At the end of April, state and federal officials began work to remove part of the Tamiami Trail, which has dammed water going into the park for almost nine decades. The Tamiami Trail was opened in 1928 and was considered a great accomplishment in human engineering, according to the Everglades Foundation. The engineering of the Tamiami Project was a 13-year project that cost $8 million. Years ago, if water was high in the Everglades, the road was closed; in present day, water managers keep the water low around the low so high levels of traffic can go through with no issue. This is how and why the Tamiami Trail acts as a damn across the Everglades. According to the Everglades Foundation, the Everglades National Park only receives a portion of the annual southern water flow it’s supposed to, and it’s not receive most of its water in a historic way.

Has the Tamiami Trail truly hurt the Everglades? Well, it’s certainly transformed its ecology. The reduced water flow had led to lower fish reproduction, less wading-birds nesting sites, and damaged habitats of many endangered species that are unique to the Everglades area. Sawgrass marshes and tree islands have been compromised. With less fresh water flowing into the area, salt water is now seeping inland, which is endangering freshwater aquifer wells.

If the Tamiami Trail isn’t modified, the Everglades cannot and will not survive. In 2008, U.S. Congress approved the funds for an Everglades Skyway bridge to replace part of the Tamiami Trail.  In 2013, a one-mile bridge was completed; it cost $81 million. Now, work has begun to build a second bridge; this bridge will be 2.6 miles long and cost $144 million. An additional three miles to the bridge is also being planned.

It’s become extremely urgent in recent years to get the water flowing properly. A recent summer drought killed more than 25,000 acres of seagrass. John Adornato, a senior director with the National Parks Conservation Association, said “Sending water south is the only way we can hope to restore Everglades National Park and solve Florida’s water crisis.”

Every new bridge added will bring the Everglades back to the way it should be.

Explore the Everglades

The Everglades is a beautiful, natural wonder that has many years to go before full restoration is in place. Although it’s a large undertaking and price tag, these bridges needs to be built before the wetlands disappear before our very eyes. Airboat tours of the Everglades give visitors an up-close-and-personal view of the country’s national treasure. Call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click here to book a trip today!

What is Restoration Ecology?

restoration ecology

Showing love for planet Earth.

Restoration ecology is a special field of science, having been first classified in the 1980’s, which has become an integral part of the conservation and restoration efforts in such places as the Florida Everglades. But what is restoration ecology?

The official definition of restoration ecology as defined by the Society for Ecological Restoration is the “intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem with respect to its health, integrity and sustainability.” While this definition might seem somewhat vague or ambiguous, it’s much easier to understand when you consider specific examples of restoration ecology: erosion control, reforestation, removal of invasive species, reintroduction of native species, revegetation of damaged areas, and habitat restoration for endangered species. Essentially, restoration ecology is any action taken with the intention of restoring an ecological system to its original and most adequate form, providing the best possible environment for native species that is possible given the current circumstances.

The practice of restoration ecology has actually been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, practiced by laypeople who had no specialization or expertise in the field, but who simply loved the land around them and believed they were doing the right thing in trying to preserve it. The term “restoration ecology” was officially coined in the 1980’s by two professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, John Aber and William Jordan, who also organized and held the first official meetings on the topic at the same University. Restoration ecology has greatly expanded as a field in the few decades since, becoming its own scientific discipline and inspiring one renowned biologist, E.O. Wells, to make a bold statement explaining that he feels the next century will “be the era of restoration in ecology.”

If Wells is right, then it means big things for many of the ecosystems around the world that are currently suffering, including the Florida Everglades. However, even amongst supporters of restoration ecology, there are generally two types. There are those people who have the belief that humans have a responsibility to all other living things, both plants and animals, and that we have an obligation to protect all species and their habitats independent of the effects that it has on us as a species. On the other hand, there are those who support restoration ecology but look at it from the viewpoint of what benefits are offered to us – such people look at healthy ecosystems instead as the food, fuel, water, and lumber they provide to humans. However one chooses to look at it, it’s clear that restoration ecology is a field that looks upon improving the environments that it studies, which could hardly be considered a bad thing in anyone’s book.

To truly understand why the field of restoration ecology is so important, it’s vital to visit places like South Florida and experience an Everglades tour firsthand. From an airboat tour, you’ll observe areas of the Everglades that not every average Florida tourist gets to see, and who knows – after a trip through the Florida Everglades, you may just be inspired to dive into the field of restoration ecology yourself.