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Saving the Florida Panther: The Role of Everglades Restoration


Habitat loss and urbanization are major threats to Florida tigers. Credit: Florida International University

The Everglades is an essential natural resource that provides fresh drinking water to much of Florida and serves as home to the endangered Florida panther, for which Roary’s beloved FIU statue is designed. FIU ecosystem researcher and professor of ecology John Kominoski has studied the Everglades for 11 years to understand the relationship between land and water. Kominoski currently leads the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Environmental Research Program, an ongoing research study that seeks to understand the impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems since 2000.

“One of the most pressing challenges in the Everglades is saltwater intrusion from the rapid rise in sea level,” said Kominoski. He explained that this is the result of our climate becoming warmer. As sea levels rise, salt water makes its way inland. The problem arises when local plants and soils cannot keep up with the rapid change in salinity, leading to the collapse of ecosystems.

Kominoski added, “The other big challenges in the Everglades are invasive species, habitat loss, and urbanization. All of those things put pressure on a system that has some adaptive capacity but has limitations.” These issues have become the main threats to the remaining population of Florida panthers. Recently, Kominoski discussed these issues in a presentation of the National Geographic documentary “Track of the Tiger,” which focuses on tracking and protecting the endangered Florida panther.

So what happened to Rory’s kind?

“We’ve been fragmenting the Everglades to control hydrology, grow food and build tropical urban paradises, which has continually reduced the tiger’s habitat,” Kominoski said. “As the documentary details, a male tiger needs an area larger than the metropolitan city of Orlando for habitat in order to breed successfully. That’s a huge area.”

There have been efforts to increase this habitat range. Kominowski said. “The comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is the largest effort of its kind in the world and is supported by state and federal partnerships. It attempts to forge connections in fragmented parts of the Everglades.” This is done by filling in some of the existing channels that divide the Everglades, and raising the highways to allow the water to flow unimpeded. Other efforts include wildlife corridors or “bridges” to unite ecosystems.

According to Kominoski, the average person can also contribute to preserving the Everglades by supporting organizations that promote wildlife habitat protection, visiting and recreating the Everglades to appreciate its beauty and serenity, and voting against wild land development.

How restoring the Everglades could save the Florida panther and our home

Betty Osceola, a member of the Miccosukee Panther Clan, an Everglades activist and advisor to the World Indigenous Forum for the FIU, right, took National Geographic Explorer and “Path of the Panther” producer Carlton Ward Jr. on her airboat to help set up cameras around the southern Everglades to capture Pictures of a Florida panther for the documentary. Credit: Florida International University

“We are going to have to change the way we interact with nature, and we have to think, move and adapt with a vision to balance human and wildlife needs,” Kominoski said. “FIU has made, and continues to do, great discoveries for conservation research and understanding of the Everglades.”

“We need to continue to educate others about our natural world and encourage their involvement in preserving it. There is science to what we do, and then there is also the calling that comes with it to help people understand how we relate to these issues, these places of critical importance, and what we can do about it.” We should push for Florida to be more sustainable and have less impact on the environment, and then value the areas we save through research, conservation, conservation, and restoration. I think we’re on the right track.”

Provided by Florida International University

the quote: How Restoring the Everglades Could Save the Florida Panther (2023, April 21) Retrieved April 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-everglades-florida-panther.html

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