Florida is known for the surf and the sand, but there are also a lot of wetlands that are important to the overall environment in Florida. But the amount of Florida wetlands originally, since it has become a state, has decreased by 44%. Between the years of 1985-1996, over 260,000 acres of freshwater were lost. This is an alarming rate and creates problems to the wetland habitat all around Florida. There are now federal laws that protect the wetlands. Florida and the residents should be doing as much help as they can in protecting the Florida wetlands as well.
The wetlands were destroyed in Florida in the 80s and 90s because they were deemed ‘useless wastelands’. More research was done on the wetlands and it was discovered, after a lot were already destroyed, that all wetlands are important for natural resources and can bring many economic and environmental benefits.
What Is a Wetland?
What actually is a wetland? Wetlands are described as being formed by the influence of water on land, because of this; they are neither dry land or open water. The depth and duration of the water can be variable, and the levels can fluctuate. Some wetlands can be dry for a period of time and the other times is filled with water.
Value of Florida Wetlands
“Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems.” Wetlands in Florida have to be managed to ensure their quality of life and water. A wetland to the environment is like kidneys in our bodies, they remove and filter pollutants. As pollutants pass through the water, they are trapped in the water surface and will be converted into food material for the wetlands aquatic organisms. Vegetation usually grows very fast in wetlands through sediment runoff and inputs of water. The more vegetation there is the more food for the animals that eat plants.
Wetlands fluctuate in water levels from their ability to retain water. Wetlands help extremely well during heavy storms. The excess storm water will be stored in the surrounding wetlands from runoff instead of on the land. This protects any development on land or farm land from water pollution.
Florida depends greatly on wildlife and fish in the wetlands whether they are used for food or recreational opportunities. The loss of wetlands in the 1980s created a significant drop in fish and wildlife in Florida. Having a large amount of fish in Florida brings economic benefits. An example is, “the commercial fishing industry brought in more than 5 million pounds of fish and shellfish worth almost $13.5 million to Franklin County in 1994.”
Florida is a tourism state and a large amount of tourism (not including Orlando Parks) is from fishing, hunting, and nature photography. Wetlands contribute to the aesthetic and commercial appeal of tourism in Florida.
Florida wetlands are protected by the Federal government but residents can also help protect them as well by not adding any pollution that can be harmful and report any occurrence that could be disrupting a wetland.