The Peril of Peat: Sea Level Rise in South Florida: Part 1
Post by: Ben Wilson
Whole books have been written on why and how the Everglades have been modified and managed, but I will just hit the highlights here. The Everglades as it is today began forming about 5,000 years ago when sea level began to stabilize following the last ice age. During the rainy season, water would spill over the banks of Lake Okeechobee and flow as a sheet down the Florida Peninsula. Beginning in the 1880s and continuing into the 1940s, attempts began to drain the Everglades in order to use its fertile land for agriculture. Canals and dikes were highly successful at shuttling water away from the Everglades. However, this soon caused extensive droughts and fires, leading people to realize that water flow needed to be managed to create the perfect balance of not too much water to flood the crops, but enough to prevent drought.
As you can see below, all these efforts completely altered the water flowing through the Everglades and threw a stable ecosystem into imbalance. Much less water is getting to the coastal Everglades, and this is becoming a large problem because of the ever growing issue of climate change.
Historic water flow (left) versus current water flow as a result of intensive management (right) has led to dramatically less freshwater flowing south. Source Evergladesrestoration.gov
|The zone where saltwater from the ocean and freshwater from the aquifer mix has been moving inland at a rapid pace, causing saltwater intrusion into pumping wells. Source: St. John’s River Water Management District.|