English 35


Florida’s Everglades National Park doesn’t look like much from an airplane. A flatly soggy field1 of tall grass stretches toward the horizon. A few trees dot the landscape. A closer look, however, reveals a buzzing natural world. Hundreds of species’2 make up the Everglades’ ecosystem. Egrets and white ibis soar above the water. Lime-green tree frogs croak. Craggy alligators lurk below the swamp’s surface.

Now, after years of poor planning, this habitat3 may be dying. Dozens of species, such as the Florida panther, are endangered. When large numbers of people began settling in Florida near4 a hundred years ago, the Everglades were considered worthless swampland. Builders did their best to drain the swamp. Farms and cities evolved5 where alligators once roamed freely.

In the 1920s, Army engineers straightened rivers and built thousands of miles of canals and dikes.6 They hoped to prevent flooding, and keep7 water supplies stable for farms and fast-growing cities, but they didn’t realize that changing the flow of water would of harmed8 the ecosystem drastically. The Everglades, which once covered 4,000 square miles, shrank by half. Populations of birds, alligators and other animals dwindled9 too.

Farmers, especially sugar-cane growers, have created another problem – a chemical called10 phosphorus is11 found in crop fertilizers and animal wastes. Sugar-cane plantations and dairy farms annually dump tons of phosphorus into South Florida’s waters. Some plants absorb it better than others. Cattails, for example, are great at absorbing phosphorus. This plant is formally known as typha angustifolia12 and is crowding out native saw grass, which many animals depend on for sustenance.

In the 1980s, people began to realize the Everglades were in trouble, and engineers began trying to put rivers back on their old courses. It’s a huge project though,13 and it won’t be cheap. The plan will cost $1.5 billion over seven years. Some say that sugar-cane growers must pay their fair share. [14] However, sugar-cane growers say a tax would hurt their business and risk the jobs of 40,000 sugar workers.

On the contrary,15 nearly everyone agrees that the Everglades must be rescued. “There’s no other place like this on earth,” Sandy Dayhoff, the education coordinator for Everglades National Park. “It would be terrible to destroy a national treasure like this.”