There are a number of environmental issues in Florida. A large portion of Florida is a biologically diverse ecosystem, with large wetlands in the Everglades. Management of environmental issues related to the everglades and the larger coastal waters and wetlands have been important to the history of Florida and the development of multiple parts of the economy of Florida, including the influential agricultural industry. This biodiversity leaves much of Florida's ecological ecosystem vulnerable to invasive species and human sources of industrial pollution and waste.

Moreover, because of Florida's low geography, Florida has been described as "ground zero" in the United States for the impacts of climate change in the United States.


Main article: Draining and development of the Everglades

The Everglades ecoregion, highlighted in a satellite photograph
The Everglades ecoregion, highlighted in a satellite photograph

The Everglades are tropical wetlands located in the southern portion of Florida that have been designated under the Ramsar Convention as one of only three wetland areas of global importance. A restoration of the Everglades is being carried out with a $7.8 billion, 30-year project aimed at its preservation and restoration.[1]


The Florida panther is an endangered population of the cougar (Puma concolor). There are about 230 individuals in the wild. The Center for Biological Diversity and others have called for a special protected area for the panther.[2]

Manatees are also dying at a rate much higher than their reproduction.[3]

In 1977, the federal government placed alligators on the endangered list. They were removed from the endangered list in 1987 and Florida permitted selective hunting in 1988.[4]

In 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service was examining a list of nine species to see if they should be added to the protected list. These included bridled darter, Panama City crayfish, Suwanee moccasin shell mussel, eastern hellbender salamander, Florida Keys mole skink, MacGillivray's seaside sparrow, boreal toad, Sierra Nevada red fox, and the Bicknell's thrush.

Invasive species

The state has more invasive amphibians and reptiles than anyplace else in the world. The pet industry was responsible for 84% of the 137 non-native species introduced from 1863 to 2010. 25% were traced to a single importer.[5]


Approximately 1,300 of Florida's plant species (31 percent of the total) are non-natives which have become established; 10 percent of these are considered invasive.[6] The three most ecologically damaging are Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), which has taken over 703,500 acres (2,800 km2) in south and central Florida, and forms single-species environments; melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), which has invaded 488,800 acres (2,000 km2) - more than 12 percent of total land area in South Florida, and was spreading at an estimated 50 acres (202,300 m2) per day; and Australian pine (Casuarina spp.) which covered 372,723 acres (1,500 km2), and whose fallen needles release a chemical into the soil which inhibits the growth of native plants.[7]

In 2013, five rare butterflies, indigenous to Florida, haven't been seen in over six years. These include the zestos skipper, rockland Meske's skipper, zarucco duskywing, nickerbean blue, and the Bahamian swallowtail. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is reluctant to declare them extinct because other butterfly species have been "rediscovered" after long periods of not being seen by man.[8]

Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) is the most significant invasive aquatic plant species in the state;[9] aggressive biological, chemical and mechanical management has reduced the effects of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)[10] and water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes).[11]


Due in part to its prevalence in the exotic pet trade,[12] Florida has a large number of non-native species. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission tracks 31 species of mammals,[13] 196 species of birds,[14] 48 species of reptiles,[15] 4 species of amphibians,[16] and 55 species of fish[17] that have been observed in the state. Many of the identified species are either non-breeding or stable populations, but several species, including the cane toad (Bufo marinus),[18] Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus),[19] Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus),[20] and Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus),[21] have created significant impact on the delicate ecosystems of the state, especially in the tropical southern third of the state.

Florida's fresh waters are host to 34 confirmed breeding species of exotic (introduced) fish, a higher number than any other place on earth.[22]

Since their accidental importation from South America into North America in the 1930s, the red imported fire ant population has increased its territorial range to include most of the Southern United States, including Florida. They are more aggressive than most native ant species and have a painful sting.[23]

Fungus endangering some non-native palms

Native fusarium wilt is endangering several types of palm trees including the non-native queen palms, and the Washingtonia palms. The fungus is apparently being spread by humans using unsanitized power tools.[24]

Waste in Florida

Florida's 18 million residents (21 million as of 2020) and 80 million visitors generated over 32 short tons (29 t) million of solid waste in 2010.[25]

Increasing landfill space has been an issue. In 2010 landfill space cost about $400,000 per 1 acre (0.40 ha).[25]

In 2010, the state had the goal of recycling 75% of its waste by 2020. Municipal experiments in "single-stream recycling" disposal seemed to indicate that this goal might be achievable.[25]

St. Lucie County is planning to experiment with burning trash through plasma arc gamification to generate energy and reduce landfill space.[citation needed][when?]

Pollution and waste

In 2010 there were, in the state, 44 federal Superfund sites, 101 brownfields, 13,527 petroleum cleanups and more than 3,000 other sites with dry-cleaning fluids or other hazardous waste.[26] Drinking water is at risk because the water table is so shallow.[27]

Phosphorus mining is also an important part of the local economy. Tailing ponds from the mines are vulnerable to breach and contamination of the local environment from the radioactive biproduct called phosphogypsum.[28] In 2021, one of the dams breached at Piney Point phosphate plant into the Tampa Bay.[29]

Because of its marine origins, Florida soil is naturally high in phosphorus.[30] Coupled with fertilizer, this often has resulted in excessive phosphorus in water runoff to nearby bodies of water. As a result, Florida has required certain municipalities to limit the application of fertilizer containing phosphorus.[31]

Climate change

A Köppen climate map portraying the four different climate zones of Florida
A Köppen climate map portraying the four different climate zones of Florida

The effects of Climate change in Florida is attributable to man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Floridians are experiencing increased flooding due to sea level rise, and are concerned about the possibility of more frequent or more intense hurricanes.[32]

The state has been described as America's "ground zero" for climate change, global warming and sea level rise, because "the majority of its population and economy is concentrated along low-elevation oceanfront."[33][34][35][36][37]

Florida residents think climate change is happening at higher rates than the national average. However, only a slim majority agree it is anthropogenic in nature.[38][39] Some communities in Florida have begun implementing climate change mitigation approaches; however, statewide initiatives have been hampered by the politicization of climate change in the United States, focusing on resilience rather than full scale mitigation and adaptation.

See also


  1. ^ "Senate Approves $7.8 Billion Plan to Aid Everglades". New York Times. September 26, 2000.
  2. ^ Williams Hale, Leslie (29 December 2009). "Record number of panthers killed by vehicles in 2009". Naples News. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  3. ^ Brown, Tom (19 December 2009). "2009 a deadly year for Florida's manatees". Reuters. Retrieved 2010-01-01.
  4. ^ Powell, Padgett (2006-08-05). "Alligators All Around". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Invasive species traced to pet trade". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. September 16, 2011. pp. 4B.
  6. ^ "Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council:Facts". Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  7. ^ "Exotic Invasive Plants - "Weeds Gone Wild"". University of Florida, Hendry County Cooperative Extension Office. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  8. ^ "Rare state butterflies may be extinct". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. April 28, 2013. pp. 1A.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Invasive Nonindigenous Plants in Florida:Hydrilla". University of Florida, IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Archived from the original on January 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  10. ^ Ramey, Victor (August 2001). "Non-Native Invasive Aquatic Plants in the United States:Eichhornia crassipes". Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida. Archived from the original on January 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  11. ^ Ramey, Victor (August 2001). "Non-Native Invasive Aquatic Plants in the United States:Pistia stratiotes". Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, University of Florida. Archived from the original on January 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  12. ^ Campbell, Todd. "Emergency Response to Reptile & Amphibian Releases Especially the Nile Monitor Lizards". US Fish and Wildlife Service. Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  13. ^ "Florida's Exotic Wildlife: status for 31 Mammal species". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  14. ^ "Florida's Exotic Wildlife: status for 196 Bird species". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  15. ^ "Florida's Exotic Wildlife: status for 48 Reptile species". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  16. ^ "Florida's Exotic Wildlife: status for 4 Amphibian species". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  17. ^ "List of exotic freshwater fishes collected from Florida fresh waters" (PDF). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. August 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  18. ^ "Species Profiles:Cane Toad". USDA National Invasive Species Information Center. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  19. ^ "Large Gambian rats have Keys officials worried". Associated Press. 3 January 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  20. ^ Youth, Howard (May–June 2005). "Florida's Creeping Crawlers: A Potential Nightmare in the Mangroves". Zoogoer. Archived from the original on January 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  21. ^ Mott, Maryann (28 October 2005). "Invasive Pythons Squeezing Florida Everglades". National Geographic. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  22. ^ "Florida's Exotic Freshwater Fishes". Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
  23. ^ "Not all alien invaders are from outer space". United States Department of Agriculture. Archived from the original on October 1, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-03.
  24. ^ Waymer, Jim (March 22, 2014). "Florida's own fungus devastates some palms". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 3A, 6A. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  25. ^ a b c Waymer, Jim (23 May 2010). "Recyclers can scrap sorting". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ Flemming, Paul (21 March 2010). "Capital Ideas column:Candidates let the sun shine in". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 10B.
  27. ^ King, Ledyard (September 1, 2017). "Cleanup of fuel tanks in jeopardy". Florida Today. Melbourne, Florida. pp. 1A. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  28. ^ Tayibi, Hanan; Choura, Mohamed; López, Félix A.; Alguacil, Francisco J.; López-Delgado, Aurora (2009). "Environmental Impact and Management of Phosphogypsum". Journal of Environmental Management. 90 (8): 2377–2386. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2009.03.007. hdl:10261/45241. PMID 19406560.
  29. ^ "Florida faces imminent collapse of giant phosphate mine pond". MINING.COM. 2021-04-05. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  30. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-09-30. Retrieved 2013-03-08.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Miller, Kristen L. (February 1, 2012). "State Laws Banning Phosphorus Fertilizer Use". Connecticut General Assembly.
  32. ^ The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board (2017-09-08). "Editorial: Gov. Scott's Irma leadership undercut by his climate denial". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  33. ^ Bagley, Katharine (2014-03-13). "Climate Change Showdown in Florida Governor's Race". InsideClimate News. Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  34. ^ Grunwald, Michael (April 22, 2014). "Spending Earth Day at Ground Zero for Climate Change In America". Time. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  35. ^ Editorials (August 1, 2015). "Ground Zero for climate change". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  36. ^ Urdaneta, Diego (April 22, 2014). "Florida is 'Ground Zero' for sea level rise". Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  37. ^ Morse, Hannah. "Florida is climate change 'ground zero.' But it lacks buzz ahead of presidential debate". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  38. ^ "U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy". Pew Research Center. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 2021-02-08.
  39. ^ "April 2020 Results : Florida Climate Resilience Survey April 2020". Center for Environmental Studies. Retrieved 2021-02-08.

Further reading