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How the Everglades Water Quality Is Impacting Dolphin Habitats

November 22, 2022 / dolphins,

The Everglades is more than just another National Park. Water from the Everglades provides drinking water to more than 9 million Floridians and serves as home to 78 endangered species. One such species that calls the Everglades home is the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. And while dolphins are not endangered currently, pollution is threatening all species living in and around the Everglades. 

Pollution in the Everglades is coming from a variety of sources. There is air pollution from power plants and fertilizer runoff from agriculture and industrialization. These activities are harming the natural and scenic resources that wildlife needs to survive. 

Learn more about what’s being done to protect animal habitats and one of the nation’s most stunning and unique National Parks.

What Are the Everglades?

Before we dive too deep into the challenges that wildlife faces in the Everglades, let’s take a closer look at the area. The subtropic ecosystem comprises 1.5 million acres in south Florida and is extremely biodiverse. That means that the area is filled with many species of animals and plants. The Everglades are surrounded by many housing communities in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

A subtropic climate with various animal habitats, including dolphin habitats, the area is well known for its diverse wildlife. Some examples include:

  •     American alligator
  •     American crocodile
  •     Banded water snake
  •     Florida black bear
  •     Florida panther
  •     Florida softshell turtle
  •     Florida snapping turtle
  •     Great blue heron
  •     Little grass frog
  •     Oak toad
  •     River otter
  •     Roseate spoonbill
  •     Red-shouldered hawk
  •     Virginia opossum
  •     Wood stork

Astoundingly, it’s the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles share the same habitat.

Despite being an incredibly unique nature sanctuary, the Everglades is facing invasive species, reduced water flows and climate change. The area is listed as critical on the conservation outlook from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Without restoration efforts, the park will continue to deteriorate, leaving many animals without a home.

Just 200 years ago, the Everglades was twice the size at 3 million acres. But with agriculture and urban development, only half of the original land exists. The challenge with all the urban development is that it was done with little environmental planning. Fresh water in the Everglades used to come from Lake Okeechobee, but that has been cut off due to dredging. 

Water pollution is a major problem facing the Everglades. Fertilizer runoff from nearby farms has added phosphorus to the marshes. This has meant fewer birds in the area and more invasive plant species, which have reduced or displaced the natural flora. While pollution reduction can stop phosphorus runoff from reaching the Everglades, restoring the original flora is more challenging.

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What is the Everglades Restoration Project?

Recognizing the importance of the Everglades, Florida began the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project: the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Some things that are being done to protect the area include:

  • The government issued the Clean Water Act outlining how much phosphorous can be discharged
  • Farmers are reducing phosphorus in water before it leaves their farms
  • State and federal governments constructed 57,000 acres for Stormwater Treatment Areas to remove phosphorus from water before it reaches the Everglades

Captains for Clean Water is a grassroots nonprofit organization that is working toward a solution to the water problem in the Everglades. The nonprofit brings together businesses and residents to ensure accountability for elected officials. 

The effort isn’t all about protecting wildlife. Marsh sequesters carbon from the atmosphere and stores it within organic peat soils as do the mangrove forests. Naturally, the Everglades’ carbon sequester is estimated at $3.4 billion. Additionally, the Everglades serve as a buffer against storms and hurricanes.

And while tourism is not the primary goal of protecting the Everglades, it is an essential part of the Florida economy and is worth preserving. 

Dolphins Plus is a member of the community and focused on helping care for local wildlife and ensure a strong future for both residents and the animals that call the Everglades home. Without wetlands, dolphins could cease to exist in and around Florida. We can’t imagine our home without these incredible creatures.

Dolphins Plus Bayside’s Commitment to Dolphin Health and Safety

Dolphins Plus makes it possible to swim with dolphins while meeting and exceeding all regulations concerning animal health and safety. We’re also constantly investing in research to protect the Florida Keys and its natural beauty. The education team frequently visits schools to teach students about conservation and instill in them a passion for marine science. We can provide a unique up-close experience that makes the importance of conservation truly come to life. 

We proudly support Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder, a nonprofit dedicated to rescuing sick or injured dolphins and whales in the Florida Keys.

You can follow our dolphins to learn more about these incredible creatures and feel inspired to take part in conservation efforts and water cleanup throughout the Everglades to protect them and other wildlife. 

If you are interested in learning more about this, Dolphins Plus offers educational field trips at their natural seawater facility in the Florida Keys.


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