Private Efforts And Cooperation

Conservationists have encouraged a variety of strategies to help developing countries derive economic benefit from their land's biodiversity. One approach is ecotourism, a form of tourism that supports the conservation of ecologically unique areas while bringing economic benefit to local people. In ecotourism, tourists pay for nature guides, food, and lodging in exchange for the opportunity to experience the ecosystem and its unique organisms.

Cooperation between conservation groups, individuals, and governments is crucial in identifying and addressing environmental issues. In the United States, conservation groups such as the Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, and Ducks Unlimited make efforts to educate people, protect land, and influence the making of laws.

Individuals and the media also play an important role in raising awareness of environmental issues. In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson, shown in Figure 22-12, made millions of people aware of the dangers of pesticides in her book Silent Spring. French oceanog-rapher Jacques Cousteau was internationally famous for his books and television programs about the undersea world.

CONSERVATION CASE STUDY: THE EVERGLADES

The Everglades ecosystem is essentially a wide, shallow, slow-moving river that flows south across much of southern Florida, as shown in Figure 22-13. The area is a swampy patchwork of islands among water that is knee deep in grasses and reeds. The area is home to panthers, alligators, storks, and a wealth of other unique and rare species. The Everglades National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the United States. However, many human interests continue to compete for use of the ecosystem's resources.

Early in the 20th century, the beautiful beaches and pleasant climate of southern Florida attracted land developers. However, most of the land was too wet to build on, and mosquitoes discouraged people from living there. Over time, the developers dug drainage canals to divert water flows toward the ocean and dry out the land. They also planted non-native melaleuca trees because these trees take up large amounts of water from the soil.

At that time, few people could foresee the ecological consequences of these actions. However, journalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998) saw them clearly. She worked to help establish Everglades National Park. In 1947, she wrote a book that described the Everglades ecosystem and explained its importance. Douglas spent a lifetime trying to protect the Everglades.

Still, by the end of the century, half of the area's wetlands had been drained. Ninety percent of the wading birds had disappeared. Because salt concentrations had doubled in Florida Bay, sea grass and shrimp nurseries had died. Fertilizers from agricultural fields flowed along with the water, which poisoned many species and made fish dangerous to eat. Development had diverted so much water that many farmers and homeowners experienced shortages of groundwa-ter. And the melaleuca trees had become an invasive weed.

figure 22-13

The Everglades ecosystem (a) is a large region with enough natural habitat for large predators, such as the highly endangered Florida panther (b). Little islands called hummocks rise above the river and are home to a diversity of organisms, including trees, birds, alligators, snakes, and insects. The Everglades National Park (c) contains only about 20 percent of the ecosystem.

(c)

Conservationists have since established a 20-year plan for the Everglades ecosystem. The plan includes eliminating some of the drainage canals, restoring the Kissimmee River to its original channel, cutting back stands of melaleuca trees, and purchasing more than 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land surrounding Everglades National Park. This plan is the most ambitious ecosystem restoration project so far attempted in the United States.

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