Ecological Restoration
The definition of ecological restoration can be defined in many different ways. The definition that suites this paper the best is as follows. Restoration is "the practice of reestablishing the historic plant and animal communities of a given area or region and the renewal of the ecosystem and cultural functions necessary to maintain these communities now and into the future." Restoration is practiced in all sorts of ecosystems so that they do not disappear in the future. Although much time, effort, and money is put into these different ecosystems it is almost impossible to ever completely restore them to how they were before humans started effecting the earth's environment.
In 1905, Florida elected Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, who campaigned on a promise to drain the Everglades. He didn't, but over the next century, others almost did. Dams, canals, and levees have carved up most of the Everglades, which once covered almost 9 million acres. Everglades National Park protects only about a sixth of the historic Everglades area. Much of the rest has been planted with sugarcane, housing developments, and amusement parks.
Today, the Everglades is at the beginning of the largest ecological restoration effort in history. Many public and private projects are already under way, and in July of 1999, the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will submit to Congress a proposal for a 20-year, $8 billion massive replumbing of South Florida. The plan, optimistic and desperate at the same time, includes some of the most ambitious public works projects ever. This venture is designed to repair the damage from another one of the world's largest public works projects, the corps' midcentury effort to reengineer the Everglades. "We're at a crossroads right now," says Michael L. Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. "We have the opportunity to reverse 50 to 75 years of degradation of the Everglades ecosystem."
The Everglades once meandered over most of South Florida. The flat state is rimmed with slight rises on the east and west coasts, creating a wide, shallow valley. To the north, and slightly uphill, Lake Okeechobee released water that mingled with rain to form a wide, slow-moving "river of grass," as early conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas named the Everglades. Imagine a grassy sheet of water 60 miles wide and 6 inches deep. A given drop of rain could take a year to glide south from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Keys. In the age of ecological awareness, air conditioning, and DEET mosquito repellent, the Everglades inspire all of us. Early settlers, however, saw the Everglades as one big, soggy, malaria-infested impediment to prosperity. In the mid-1880s, the state offered Everglades's land, cheap, to anyone who would drain it. These people would drain as much of the land as they could because they did not see the future effects they were making to the environment. The main change was the flow of water in the swamp areas and now the land is trying to restore itself but it can't because of the new seasonal cycle. Everglades's wildlife depends on this seasonal cycle, says ornithologist Stuart L. Pimm of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. During nesting season, wading birds need relatively low water levels that concentrate fish in shallow pools. The birds situate their nests near these reliable food sources. Too much drainage, however, has created frequent bone-dry periods from which fish populations can't bounce back. Both the fish and the birds suffer. Artificially high water levels can also harm wildlife. The endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow, for example, builds its nest a few inches above the water. When the water in a parcel of Everglades rises too rapidly, the nestlings drown. Populations of wading birds in the Everglades are down at least 90 percent in the past 50 years, largely because of changes in water flow. Even in the 15 years that Pimm has been doing aerial surveys of the park, he has seen the number of wading birds decline. This shows how man must correct the water drainage systems so that we can have clean water and still help out the natural environment.
One of the most creative, untested water-storage techniques proposes plumbing on the grandest scale. One thousand feet below Florida's