Artesian Water rises at Juniper Spring in central Florida. This remarkably clear water feeds Juniper Springs Run, a stream popular with those seeking to see wildlife in a natural setting. We canoed several miles down the clear stream, amid turtles, herons, a few 'gators and tall Cyprus. Much of Florida's water supply comes from the Florida Aquifer, which feeds this and many other spectacular large springs in this area.
Central Florida Highlands
The Central Florida Highlands, including the Lake Wales Ridge, formed as a series of sand dunes during a high stand of sea level during the Pleistocene. In addition
to reminding us of the potential consequences of global warming, this area is habitat to a remarkable number of rare species, which trace their ancestry to tropical species to the south. Now isolated, they have adapted to the dry, sandy conditions of the area. Dwarf species are common; the shrubs shown below include species of oak.
These native species are threatened by development and agriculture. When irrigated, this environment is well suited for citrus, and many golf resorts are going in around lakes present in natural depressions in the area.
Shown below, our group is breaking camp at Highlands Hammock State Park, preparing for a day at canoeing down Juniper Run
South Florida Wetlands
South Florida Wetlands, include the Everglades and Big Cyprus Swamp. Numerous ecosystems in these areas depend on a complex cycle of precipitation, surface flow, fire, hurricane and drought. These systems are home to a diverse set of organisms, including large beautiful water fowl and abundant alligators. Pictured above is a White Ibis, photographed in Cork Screw Swamp Sanctuary. Below is an alligator, photographed along the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades.
Water management is a major environmental issue in south Florida. Water naturally flowing through the Everglades is diverted for agricultural uses, flood control, and use domestic use by the rapidly growing coastal urban areas. The picture below shows some of the fields near Homestead. Outside of the areas protected in Parks and preserves, much of the everglades have been converted to areas such as this that shown below:
The Florida Keys originated as a coral reef during a high stand of sea level during Pleistocene time. Today a magnificent living reef parallels the chain of low islands we know as the Keys. We stayed at Sea Camp on Big Pine Key (shown above), and spent a day investigating coral reef, turtle grass flats and other marine environments.
Environmental problems we saw included contamination and salinity changes in Florida Bay induced by water use patterns in south Florida, and fishing and recreational pressures on reef ecosystems. We discussed the use of Marine Preserves as a means of addressing some of these problems.
Shark behavior and protection is the research specialty of Dr. Jeff Carrier, one of our faculty. Here Jeff is explaining some of the challenges related to creation of Marine preserves, in the Keys and elsewhere.