Did you know that Florida's Everglades is one of only 20 World Heritage sites in the United States? In December 1993, Everglades National Park was included on the list of properties of World Heritage in danger. It is hoped that increased attention to the threats posed to the long-term health of the park will lead to better conservation of this fragile ecosystem.
The Everglades, or River of Grass as the Native Americans called it, is a fragile ecosystem that demonstrates the delicate balance within nature and the threats from humankind. It is formed by a river of fresh water 6 inches deep and 50 miles wide that flows slowly across the flat expanse of land at the southern tip of Florida. Sawgrass marshes, pine forests and mangrove islands support a variety of wildlife.
In 1947, the Everglades National Park was established and now covers 1.4 million acres. More than 300 species of birds live in the park. Several of them, such as herons and egrets, are protected from plume hunters. Alligators, manatees and Florida panthers are also protected. The terrestrial and aquatic plant and animal communities have adapted to each other and to the climate of wet summers and dry winters. They are, however, dependent on the flow of water which has been severely altered by urban and agricultural development in south Florida beginning at the turn of the century.
Half of the original Everglades has been drained and water to the national park sector is harnessed through canals and floodgates. Scientists and engineers are planning ways to re-establish a more natural flow of water to meet the area's environmental needs.
In 1999, the Museum of Discovery and Science was designated by the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to be an official interpretive site for the Greater Everglades Restoration Project. The Museum's Living in the Everglades exhibit was designed to help educate the public on the restoration efforts for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.