In Palm Beach County, Learning How Climate Change Impacts The Everglades

Feb 12, 2018

Scientists have long known that climate change is threatening the Everglades. But outdoor enthusiasts and environmental advocates have often looked at the two as separate issues.

The baseball-sized apple snail on the left is not native to the Everglades ecosystem. At right, a native apple snail. (The Everglades snail kite -- an endangered bird -- eats both kinds.)
Credit Kate Stein / WLRN

That's beginning to change, at least for about 30 people in an Audubon Florida Everglades conservation class that started Monday, Feb. 5, in West Palm Beach. For the next two months, naturalists, bird watchers, gardeners and ecology students — and WLRN's environment reporter, Kate Stein — are learning about habitats within the Everglades and some of the ecosystem's many challenges.

"I really hope to get a little more knowledgeable about the present state of affairs," said Andrew Morris, a participant who splits his time between Lighthouse Point and Sheboygan, Wis., Morris is a certified master naturalist for both Florida and Wisconsin, and said in the context of climate change, he’s all the more concerned about the slow progress of Everglades restoration.

"First the federal government was gung-ho and then the state wasn’t. And then the state was gung-ho and the federal government wasn’t," Morris said, referring to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a multi-billion dollar, multi-decade federal-state partnership.

Rising seas are pushing into the Biscayne Aquifer underneath the so-called “River of Grass.” That aquifer supplies fresh drinking water to eight million people in southern Florida.

Read more: Everglades 101: Just How Does This Thing Work, Anyway?

The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was authorized 18 years ago. Only one of its more than 60 projects has been completed.