, the Everglades
, a region of tropical wetlands
in southern Florida
, were an interwoven mesh of marshes
covering 4,000 square miles (10,000 km2
). The Everglades is both a vast watershed
that has historically extended from Lake Okeechobee
100 miles (160 km) south to Florida Bay
(around one-third of the southern Florida peninsula), and many interconnected ecosystems within a geographic boundary. It is such a unique meeting of water, land, and climate that the use of either singular or plural to refer to the Everglades is appropriate. When Marjory Stoneman Douglas
wrote her definitive description of the region in 1947, she used the metaphor "River of Grass" to explain the blending of water and plant life.
are the enduring geographical icons of the Everglades, other ecosystems are just as vital, and the borders marking them are subtle or nonexistent. Pinelands and tropical hardwood hammocks
are located throughout the sloughs; the trees, rooted in soil inches above the peat
, or water, support a variety of wildlife. The oldest and tallest trees are cypresses
, whose roots are specially adapted to grow underwater for months at a time. The Big Cypress Swamp is well known for its 500-year-old cypresses, though cypress domes can appear throughout the Everglades. As the fresh water from Lake Okeechobee makes its way to Florida Bay, it meets salt water from the Gulf of Mexico
forests grow in this transitional zone, providing nursery and nesting conditions for many species of birds, fish, and invertebrates. The marine environment of Florida Bay is also considered part of the Everglades because its sea grasses and aquatic life are attracted to the constant discharge of fresh water. (Full article...