TYPE OF ECOSYSTEM THAT IT REPRESENTS:
An ecosystem is the system formed by a group of organisms of different species (the biocenosis), the physical and chemical elements of the area where they live (the biotope), and the relationships between them.
The Everglades National Park is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. In this reserve we can differentiate between eight independently ecosystems:
This is the most common ecosystem. This sloughs are low-lying areas covered with fresh water which flows at 100 feet (30 meters) per day. The Everglades National Park contains two distinct sloughs: one in the west, the Shark river slough, which is the larger slough, and another which is narrower and shorter than the other one in the east which is the Taylor slough. Both of them discharge into the Florida Bay.
This ecosystem is composed mainly of slash pines, has an incredible diverse flora and has a lot of species that only grow in this area.
Fire is the main condition in this pine area, but luckily many plants that grow here are adapted to it.
In this ecosystem we can find broad-leafed trees and many tropical species.
Acid from decaying plants creates a natural protection for hammocks against fires. Because hammocks are slightly elevated floods rarely happen.
Mangroves are presented in coastal channels and winding rivers of south Florida. The term “mangrove” is used to identify species of salt-tolerant trees that thrive hard conditions on the coast.
There are three types of mangroves: red, white and black.
During dry months birds congregate here for food and nest and during summer months mangroves provide defence from hurricanes.
This ecosystem can be found in tidal mud flats and in dry land. Periodic flooding and heavy winds are brought by tropical storms and hurricanes.
Salt-tolerant communities live in this ecosystem, this communities are characterised by low-growing desert plants which are called succulents.
Cypress are deciduous conifer that live in standing water. They can grow over limestone , where it's common to see cypress growing in the shape of domes. Cypresses strands grow on branches,trunks of trees. Dwarf cypresses grow on drier and poorer soil areas.
The largest body of water in the Everglades National Park is the Florida Bay, which contains more than 800 square miles of marine ecosystem.
Corals and algae serve as a shelter and food for marine organisms and this organisms will therefore be the source of food for larger vertebrates.
Corals and sponges live in hard bottom areas.
8.FRESHWATER MARL PRAIRIE
Freshwater marl prairies are really similar to sloughs.
The water of this ecosystem filters through a calcitic mud called marl.
Periphyton (formed by algae and microscopic organisms) which is attached to limestone serves as food for invertebrates, tadpoles and some fish. It is also the main component of today’s marl soil.
The Everglades National Park had been designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage site, a Wetland of International importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty, because of the global interest for preserving it.
The Everglades National Park is located in Florida:
Climate: tropical savanna climate. Two seasons (wet from May to November and dry from December to April). During the dry season, rainfall is not abundant and humidity is very low. Due to this, forest fires are a problem.
Summers are hot and humid. The average temperature in summer is 32ºC and has a humidity over 90%. Thunderstorms are very common in the afternoons.
Tropical storms and hurricanes affect the Everglades from June to November, which also coincides with a rainy season until October. Mosquitoes are very abundant in this period of time.
There are cool-air breezes that may make the temperature seem colder than it really is, though the temperatures aren’t usually freezing.
1.Types of landforms
If you go to the Everglades National Park, you can find different types of lands and vegetation.
Sawgrass Marsh: The heart of the park is the big sawgrass marshes, the biggest of his type in the world. This habitat stays wet most of the year. Only when The Everglades enters in the dry season we can see that the water levels drop and the ground becomes visible.
Sawgrass is the most common plant found in this habitat. During the wet season the roots of the plant are covered by water and in the dry season the marshes are devastated by fires which are necessary as it helps to eliminate dead parts. The Sawgrass is one of the oldest green plants of the earth. The leaves of the Sawgrass plant have serrated edges that can cut a person if he or she runs a hand along the plant in the wrong direction. The Sawgrass Marshes have a porous hard limestone bottom.
Other types of landforms you can find are the pine forests, hardwood hammocks, coastal prairie and the mangrove swamp.
Pine forests are the highest areas of the park. They are made up of slash pine, pine flatwoods, long leaf pine and pond pine. The floor of these forests is rough, rugged and rocky.
The pine forests are rich in vegetation, supporting half of the plant species in the park. Inside the pine forests, based on the limestone floor, holes can be found where alligators used to live.
Fires are commonly need for the survival of the pine forests,clearing undergrowth and promoting growth.
Hardwood Hammocks: Here, few trees grow because a lot of water is found on this part. However, with the limestone, higher trees like the Mahogany, Gumbo limbo, and cocoa palm can grow.
Coastal Prairie: Found in the extreme Southern section of the park it's the Coastal Prairie, shown below. These areas contain meadows and woodlands of buttonwood, gumbo limbo hardwoods of other types, yucca and grasses.
Mangrove Swamp: In areas near the coast where the salty water of the gulf and Florida bays meets the fresh water travelling from Lake Okechobee is the realm of the mangrove trees. These trees prefer brackish water and are responsible of creating new land as their roots and trunks trap organic material in the water. Mangrove Swamp covers more than 500 miles in the park.
This photograph shows the Buttonwood canal through the mangrove groves.
The Everglades is mainly made of limestone and surface bedrock.
Limestone is formed when small marine invertebrates become exposed to the sun. Bedrock formed in the tertiary and cretaceous period when sedimentary rocks and carbonate rocks were deposited in a three mile long layer.
There are two types of soil in the park:
-Marl: It's a complex mixture of algae, cyanobacteria, microbes and detritus. It's common in prairie areas.
-Peat: In areas of bedrock. The color of the soil depends on the plant source it is composed.
The Park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America, it contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, it is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee, and it supports 350 species of birds, 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish, 40 species of mammals, and 50 species of reptiles.
In this photograph we can see the Florida panther, which is tawny brown on the back and pale gray underneath. It is one of 32 Puma concolor subspecies known by many names – puma, cougar, mountain lion, painter, catamount and panther. They once lived in woodlands and swamps throughout the Southeast, but in the 1600’s human activity and panther persecution began having a negative effect on their lives. Today, it is one of the most endangered animals on Earth.
The American crocodile. It is lizard-shaped with a long, muscular tail and four short legs that have five toes on the front feet and four on the back feet. They can be submerged with only the top of its head exposed and still be able to see, hear, and breathe, because of the location of their ears, eyes and nostrils. An interesting fact is that they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature (they are ectothermic).
The West Indian manatee is one of four living species of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia (which comes from “siren,” a legendary beautiful sea creature from Greek mythology). They can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments. They have a low metabolism, so they don’t tolerate cold water, this is also due to their lack of insulating body fat. They communicate with touch and sounds. In the past they were hunted, but fortunatelly now they are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The tall, long-legged Great Blue heron is the most common and largest of North American herons. They are really good fishers, although they also eat mice.
In this photograph we can see an amphibian: the Florida Cricket frog. It lives in freshwater environments and it varies in color from dark brown to tan or green. They have a triangular mark just behind the head and between the eyes and webbed toes.
The green anole. It is green or brown, depending on the environmental conditions. They are active in days with warm weather. They generally live in trees, but you can find them almost everywhere. They eat insects and other invertebrates.
The White-tailed deer. In the heat of summer they typically inhabit fields and meadows. On the other hand, during the winter they generally stay in forests. They are herbivores and their stomachs allow them to digest a varied diet.
North American River Otter. They don’t mind being in water or on land. They are really good swimmers, due to their strong tails and flexible bodies. They eat fish, amphibians, turtles, and crayfish.
The wood duck. These birds live in wooded swamps, they nest in holes in trees or around lake margins. 30-75 % of wood ducks are permanent residents all year round.
The Everglades Dwarf Siren. It is a slender and elongated aquatic salamander lacking hindlimbs. Adults may reach 25 cm total length, the Greater Siren is a bigger species. They live in open ponds and marshes.
Despite the damages caused by human alterations, abundant endemic plant species inhabit the park.The great floral variety of the Everglades is one of the key resources of the park.
Here you can see an endangered orchid, commonly known as Mrs. Britton's Shadow Witch. It has 4 or 5 leaves and grows in shallow swales and depressions. This plant was named for Elizabeth Britton, a famous botanist and leading founder of the New York Botanical Garden.
The endangered Powdery catopsis is an epiphytic insectivorous plant. It generally grows on the unshaded twigs of trees, and has been shown to trap more insects than other bromeliads of comparable size.
The endangered Goatsfoot passion flower vine. It is commonly found in woods and thickets. This plant has small clusters of greenish-white and purple flowers.
The Soldierwood trees produce fruit the size of peppercorns.The ripe fruits explode, shooting their seeds for several feet (that is where the name comes from).
The Live Oak hosts orchids, bromeliads and resurrection fern. It retains its leaves nearly all year-round, but they are not true evergreens--They drop their leaves immediately before new leaves emerge in spring.
In the next diagram we can observe a trophic web representative of Everglades
National Park. It is broad and has a lot of organisms, but we can perfectly appreciate the different trophic levels and we can see the different organisms that inhabit the park and their feeding relationship.
Links used for information