Salty Mud: How Global Warming Is Changing the Everglades & Surrounding Communities

As sea levels rise and endanger Florida’s coastlines, living in the state at all has become a consistent, anxiety-inducing calm before the literal and figurative storm as its citizens watch coral reefs die from rising temperatures and poor practices and politicians around the world become increasingly negligent in their attitudes towards climate change. We watch as category 5 hurricanes regularly kiss our coast and king tides devour beaches as developers fight to build strip malls and new expensive real-estate.

everglades restoration
Credit: Brian Crawford, FlickrCC

Of course, the impact of climate change extends beyond flooded parking lots and a looming mass housing crisis. With climate change, naturally, comes the ruin of our natural resources. One case study of such is the eventual degradation of the Everglades and the natural park that has fought for so long to protect it. Its grasslands support incredible eco-diversity, protecting around 70 endangered species such as the Florida panther and wood stork. At this point, it’s worth remembering  and exploring the fact that the degradation of any ecosystem can have a horrifying human impact.

With the Everglades actually being created by climate change, created out of a limestone basin over 100,000 years ago. Since the 1900s, there have been various efforts to keep expansion into the everglades at bay, maintaining the water quality and managing the population of various invasive species. Without these efforts, I would venture to say that Florida would look fairly different today.

As sea levels rise, salt water turns fresh water into brackish wetlands. This will immediately cause various (often times high specialized) fauna and flora across local and surrounding ecosystems, having a horrific effect across the food chain.

The hardest hit resource that will be ravaged by the destruction and salvation of the Everglades will be the local aquifers stored under the limestone caves. Eventually, agricultural areas will have lost the majority of their water resources. As the ecosystem collapses and taller plants die out, the majority of Florida will have lost a valuable buffer from hurricanes and other major storms, precipitating inland flooding and land loss.

This writing isn’t about something as abstract as losing a natural wonder and having dozens of species die at our hands. These events are happening every day already. By this, I want to instate the fact our fragile local ecosystems are not only indicators of the health of the environment, but essential to protecting our cities and suburbs (of which, the area around the Everglades are home to many). Damage creates a domino effect that can exceed expectations and the projections of current home buyers. To honor the wetland for it is, and the effort that went into preserving it for around a century, we need to recognize the incoming waves for what they are, and try to save what we can.