A wise man named Gaius Plinius Secundus once said, “Home is where the heart is.” Well, South Florida is my home, and my heart lies in its rich, vast wilderness. I am a nature enthusiast with a background in computational biology. My passion for science and nature is self-evident; indeed, it is a passion for such things that inspired me to write this book. Spending countless hours exploring uninhabited areas of South Florida has made me develop a special admiration for its unique ecological diversity. When one grows up in a major metropolitan like Miami, one often seems to forget about this region’s natural wonders, especially the one sitting next door—the Florida Everglades.
This book contains general information on topics related to South Florida history and ecology, but it is also a visual journey through Florida’s Everglades—what I’ve seen, experienced, and encountered in the wilderness. Curiosity has driven me deep into the marshlands, forests, and swamps of sunny South Florida; this book chronicles those experiences. A sense of adventure compelled me to take on the task of exploring and documenting its habitats in search of something new. What I found was an experience like no other.
Apart from sharing those experiences, this book is meant to broaden Everglades awareness. Because of recent environmental challenges, I have taken it upon myself to educate the public about preservation and conservation efforts to restore Florida’s Everglades. My hope is that this book will serve as a launching board of interest in matters of ecosystem preservation and that it will inspire individuals to get involved. I believe we all can and should do our part.
Wildlife enthusiast, computational biologist, and amateur photographer Tommy Rodriguez set out on a year-long quest to document the South Florida wilderness. The project, entitled Visions of the Everglades, involves independent research and field study in relation to Florida’s Everglades—its history, ecology, and preservation. The book features stunning photographs, personal insights, and general information meant to broaden Everglades awareness and preservation.
Curiosity has driven Tommy Rodriguez deep into the marshlands and swamps of sunny South Florida. Visions of the Everglades chronicles his experiences in the Florida Everglades. A sense of adventure compelled Rodriguez to take on the task of exploring and documenting its habitats in search of something new. What he found was an experience like no other.
Apart from narrating those experiences, this illustrated book is meant to broaden Everglades awareness. Because of the recent environmental challenges facing this ecosystem, Rodriguez has taken it upon himself to educate the public about preservation and conservation efforts to restore Floridas Everglades. His hope is that this book will serve as a launching board of interest in matters of ecosystem preservation and inspire individuals to get involved.
Florida’s Everglades sustains an extraordinary variation of habitats and wildlife. Many experts consider it to be the most biologically diverse ecosystem in North America. A combination of subtropical climates, seasonal fires, and permeable geological features provides the Everglades just the right recipe to sustain its unique biological identity. It also features an unusual mix of plants and animals that are rarely found anywhere else.
The Everglades is the only place where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side; it is also home to the world’s only semi-aquatic pit viper. Its complex mosaic of interdependent ecosystems are unparalleled—nine distinct habitats have been identified to date. Deep within the confines of the local swamps resides some of the world’s most rare orchids. The Everglades is home to one of the only subspecies of American black bear found wandering subtropical climates. It is also the last refuge of the endangered Florida panther.
The greater Everglades ecosystem is the largest of several wetlands in the entirety of North America. Its natural evolution is attributed to water, but unlike other wetlands, atmospheric rain is the biggest contributor to the abundance of water in the Everglades. To the local wildlife, this is the key ingredient to all aspects of life—mating, breeding, feeding, and hunting. From the very tiny to the moderately large, many species of plants and animals depend exclusively on this fragile hydration system of water for reproduction and survival.
Throughout the wet season, many aquatic animal populations boom due to an abundant supply of food and water. During the dry season, these commodities become scarce and life is rather difficult. As water levels drop, both predator and prey are forced to congregate around remnant water holes. This is most critical for aquatic creatures, because they become easy targets for wading birds and alligators.
Despite its ecological abundance, Florida’s Everglades are home to 67 threatened and endangered species of plants and animals.12 The Everglades also serve as a stop-off point for many migratory species, including two hundred species of migratory birds.23 The South Florida climate plays a major role in allowing suitable conditions for some of the world’s most beautiful species of flora to thrive and prosper. The region is an absolute haven of spectacular orchids that find the humid, subtropical climate most fitting. Long have travelers come to these parts to get a glimpse of these rare, highly prized orchids—but not without a price to be paid. The quest can be rather difficult. Anyone in search of these natural treasures must be prepared for long, intense hikes through very difficult terrain.