Everglades Threatened by City to the East, Salt Water From the West

A map that distinguishes natural from human-made features shows how both threaten Florida’s immense and unique freshwater marsh.

This story appears in the September 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Florida’s famed wetlands, the Everglades, are pinched between a burgeoning Miami to the east and encroaching saltwater to the west. With sea levels rising, the immense freshwater marsh hangs in the balance. By 2100 most of this unique national treasure could be dramatically altered.

UNITED STATES

Atlantic

Ocean

Gulf of Mexico

Lake Okeechobee

THE EVERGLADES

MAP AREA

This map uses false-color infrared satellite imagery to highlight land cover that could be transformed.

MIAMI

MIAMI

15 mi

15 km

Mangroves are important to coastal integrity and thrive in areas inundated with sea­water. But as ocean levels increase, they spread inland, replacing freshwater wetland plants.

 

What look like speckles within the Everglades are small islands of trees rising above the freshwater saw grass wetlands.

 

Vegetation strongly reflects

infrared energy, absorbing red and blue wavelengths in the process

of photosynthesis.

 

Features shaped by human activity—roads, buildings, even farmland—absorb sunlight, then release the energy as heat,

leading to a bright appearance.

 

Water features absorb the sun’s energy, leading to an inky black appearance in this view.

SEAS ON THE RISE

Scientists say sea levels could rise 2.5 to

5.2 feet by century’s end, causing much of the Everglades to be inundated by salt water.

5.2 feet of

sea level rise

MIAMI

2.5 feet of sea level rise

Present-day

average sea level

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, NGM STAFF

SOURCES: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE; LANDSAT 8, USGS; FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE RESEARCH INSTITUTE; NASA; U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

SEAS ON THE RISE

Scientists say sea levels could rise 2.5 to 5.2 feet by century’s end, causing much of the Everglades to be inundated by salt water.

Big Cypress

National Preserve

MIAMI

5.2 feet

of sea

level rise

Extent of

Greater Miami

built-up area

5.2 feet of

sea level rise

5.2 feet of

sea level rise

Agricultural

area

This map uses false-color infrared satellite imagery to highlight land cover that could be transformed.

Biscayne

Bay

2.5 feet of

sea level rise

2.5 feet of

sea level

rise

Mangroves are important to

coastal integrity and thrive in

areas inundated with sea­water.

But as ocean levels increase,

they spread inland, replacing

freshwater wetland plants.

 

What look like speckles within

the Everglades are small islands

of trees rising above the

freshwater saw grass wetlands.

 

Vegetation strongly reflects

infrared energy, absorbing red

and blue wavelengths in the

process of photosynthesis.

 

Features shaped by human

activity—roads, buildings, even

farmland—absorb sunlight, then

release the energy as heat,

leading to a bright appearance.

 

Water features absorb the sun’s

energy, leading to an inky black

appearance in this view.

Present-day

average sea level

6 mi

Florida Bay

6 km

UP TO THE EDGE

Urban and agricultural areas of Greater Miami press directly against the protected Everglades. Agricultural pollution from as far as 50 miles north harms the wetlands.

UNITED STATES

Atlantic

Ocean

Gulf of Mexico

Lake Okeechobee

THE EVERGLADES

MAP AREA

MATTHEW W. CHWASTYK, NGM STAFF

SOURCES: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE; LANDSAT 8, USGS; FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE RESEARCH INSTITUTE; NASA; U.S. CENSUS BUREAU