PRI: Will the Everglades be different after Hurricane Irma?

PRI: Written by Adam Wernick. October 8, 2017.

When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, it blasted an estimated 3 to 10 feet of storm surge into the Everglades. Combined with the drenching rain, the storm may change the vegetation patterns of the enormous wetland and perhaps prod the people of South Florida to rethink how it lives with its water.

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.
The Everglades, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has shrunk to about half of its original size since people started draining it for development and agriculture in the 1800s. The so-called River of Grass extends from Lake Okeechobee in Central Florida down to its southern tip at the Gulf of Mexico, and much of it is a national park.

“In its natural state, water flows as a very shallow sheet, very slow moving, through the vegetation, which naturally was primarily grass, until you reach the coastal areas and the vegetation there starts to change,” says University of Maryland hydrologist Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm. “The Everglades is an expansive matrix of grass, with bits of trees here and there. These are the natural parts of the Everglades that still exist."

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