Friday, 1 May 2015

Everglades National Park and Anhinga trail - Florida Day 7

Day seven saw another early start as we again we headed south into the Everglades national park.

The Burmese Python
Top left to right - Brian Faulk of the US Geological Survey. Me holding Brians
pet Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) .Bottom left - right, The demonstration
of a pythons ability to hide left being just after release right just
a few moments later.

Today was all about invasive species meeting first Brian faulk from the US Geological survey.His job is to research a number of invasive species within the park, and today he was speaking to us about one of the worst offenders. The Burmese python (Python bivittatus) .

Thought to of been introduced to the everglades through the pet trade they have rapidly multiplied and are very hard to track down. Thier taste for birds and mammals could explain the 95% decrease of endemic species populations within the park.

Although the laws have tightened around the pet trade the damage has been done and due to their behaviour and camouflage they are very difficult to find on average taking 24 man hours just to find one.

A number of methods have been proposed to find them but the best is also the most expensive using trained dogs to sniff them out. Due to cost their application is limited leaving to population to go largely unchecked. Those that are found have to be destroyed by law being autopsied afterwards to discover their last meal.

Brain had brought a couple of these snakes along with him, one his pet and the other recently captured yet to meet its required end. Using the latter he let us see just why they are so difficult to catch. Once on the grass it burrowed into the grass and within two or three minutes its was almost invisible.

Invasive Fish

We then left Brain to meet up with ‘Jeff’ who is the chief aquatic biologist for the everglades national park.

Jeff spoke about the problems florida has with invasive fish species, 17 within the park, again introduced through the pet trade.

Most of the introduced species are tropical species so are happy in the sub tropical climate of south florida during the summer months but are pushed to their limits during the relatively cold winters, something that is currently being used to the conservationists advantage.

This is because of the Comprehensive everglades restoration plan.The hydrology of the everglades is severely impaired due to man's influence through draining at the northern range of their extent. The Comprehensive everglades restoration plan aims to restore the flow in the everglades by reconnecting those drainage channels to remaining marshes allowing water to flow the way it is meant too.

Which is great, but as Jeff explained many more invasive fish species are currently held in the deep drainage canals and their reconnection would allow them to spread through the ecosystem, which would be a disaster.

Because of this the current plan is to make the drainage canals shallower so them become less thermally stable, this should mean they would cool down below the tolerance levels of the tropical invasives in the winter months killing them. This would then allow the waterways to be reconnected.
Left top to bottom - Male Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), A number of fish species
found of the Anhinga trail, One of many Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)
on the trail.
Right top to bottom - Double Breasted Cormorant
  (Phalacrocorax auritus), A Cardinal Airplant (Tillandsia fasciculata).

The Anhinga Trail

After this we then set out along the Anhinga trail, so called because of its abundance of Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga) .The Anhinga trail is best thought of as, a very large, artificial alligator hole. It was constructed to be a wildlife refuge especially in the dry season when the water levels of the surrounding marsh decreased which explained the abundance of wildlife we were seeing!

However there are a number of disadvantages to be considered about building such a refuge. These include the fact that its also a reserve for non-native species and it creates unnatural competition especially between Alligators
 (Alligator mississippiensis)  who are abundant in this small area. The biggest disadvantage i thought was the subsequent lack of alligators in the surrounding marshland because they had traveled to the trail. This meant the removal of their keystone services like the provision of real alligator holes providing dry season refuge for other species.

Prof. Mitsch and Miami

Our trip to the Anhinga trail was brief because we were soon off to receive a lecture from Prof. W. Mitsch, as ive said before, the authority on Wetlands.

His lecture focused mainly around his research on phosphorus and nitrogen removal using treatment wetlands to protect the Gulf of mexico and the Everglades. This is an area of focus at the Everglades wetland research park If you want to read more about this lecture please check out my dedicated blog post to this topic.

My day then concluded with a brief trip to see the glamour and lights of Miami south beach before a long drive home.

Top - MSc Group Photo with Prof. William Mitsch (Center), Dr Christian Dunn (to his right)
and Prof. Chris Freeman (Far left)
Bottom - Sunset City Scape from Miami South beach. 

Species List


Common Name
Latin Name
Anhinga anhinga
Red-shouldered Hawk
Buteo lineatus
Purple Gallinule
Porphyrio martinicus
Greater Blue Heron
Ardea herodias
Double Breasted Cormorant
Phalacrocorax auritus


Common Name
Latin Name
Strangler Fig
Ficus aurea
Salix caroliniana
Saw Grass
Cladium jamaicense
Spike Rush
Eleocharis vivipara
Water Lillie
Nymphaea odorata
Pond Apple
Annona glabra
Cardinal Airplant
Tillandsia fasciculata


Common Name
Latin Name
Burmese Python
Python bivittatus
Alligator mississippiensis

Common Name
Latin Name
Viceroy Butterfly
Limenitis archippus
Lubber Grass Hopper
Romalea microptera


Common Name
Latin Name
Large Mouth Bass
Micropterus salmoides
Spotted Garr
Lepisosteus oculatus
Mosquito fish
Gambusia affinis
Spotted Tilapia
Pelmatolapia mariae
Blue Tilapia
Oreochromis aureus

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