Lonely Planet Writer

Why the wetlands of Florida's Everglades continue to be the most endangered site in the US

The outlook for Florida’s famous Everglades is “critical” according to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Natural Resources. It is the only site out of 11 sites in the US that has been designated as such and holds the same designation as when it was assessed back in 2014.

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Amazing natural landscape at Everglades, southern Florida, USA Image by Getty Images/Pola Damonte

ICUN, a non-profit, evaluated 241 natural wonders around the world including the Great Barrier Reef, Redwood National Forest, and Lake Turkana. Seventeen were rated as critical and all were primarily as a result of human-caused climate change.

“Current threats related to reduced water flows, water pollution, and shifting habitat are affecting the health of the site and the amount and quality of habitat,” writes IUCN. The report notes that “some of these losses cannot be restored, as habitat features have taken decades to centuries to develop”.

The Everglades is the largest subtropical wetlands in the US and consists of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include pine rock land, sawgrass marshes, and cypress swamps. According to the assessment, it is home to around 20 species that are either threatened or endangered including the Florida panther and American crocodile.

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A really dramatic sunset over the Everglades. Image by Getty Images/Riccardo Mantero

Since 2014, the number of sites that have been threatened by human activity globally has nearly doubled from 32 to 62. “Climate change acts fast and is not sparing the finest treasures of our planet,” Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, said in a press release. “The increase and the speed in which we are seeing this trend shift over just three years has been shocking to us, and the report warns that this number is likely to grow.”