Subskill: Reading Comprehension
Concept: Cause and Effect
Grade Level: Middle Elementary.
Everglades National Park, located at the southern tip of Florida, contains the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Its mangrove swamps, forests and miles of thick sawgrass are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Over 36 threatened or endangered animal species live here, as well as an abundance of rare and unusual plants, and a wide assortment of fresh and saltwater marine life.
Many years ago, Native Americans named the Everglades the “River of Grass.” Seven-inch-long sawgrass grows throughout this shallow, 48-mile-wide river. The higher, dryer areas of the Everglades are called the hammocks or “tree islands” where cypress and pine forests grow. Wildflowers, including lilies and 25 varieties of orchids, add to the beauty of this area. It is here that animals, such as, deer, opossum, cougar, otter, and black bear can be found, but the endangered Florida panther is a rarely seen resident of the hammocks.
Everglades National Park is especially famous for its bird life. Pelicans, turkeys, and several species of duck, such as the brown mallard and white-banded teal, live here. Also, the endangered Cable Sable Seaside Sparrow, Arctic Peregrine Falcon, and Southern Bald Eagle are found here. In addition, the shallow waters of the Everglades are an ideal environment for wading birds, such as the snowy egret and the woodstork. Back in the late 1800’s, the snowy egret was hunted for the popularity of its white feathers, which were used to adorn women’s hats. As a result, in 1905, the National Audubon Society was created to protect this beautiful bird from becoming extinct. Today, the snowy egret can be seen alongside the endangered woodstork, a large, long-legged bird, which feeds itself by plucking small freshwater fish out of the muddy waters.
Everglades National Park is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. The American crocodile is endangered due to human development of land along the coastline of Florida and can only be found around the mangrove swamps in the bay area. The American alligator, on the other hand, is thriving here and is a fierce predator of small animals and birds.
Living in the marshes and waterways is the large, slow-moving manatee, or “sea cow,” which feeds on marine plant life. This gentle creature is a thick-skinned mammal with paddle-like forelimbs that weighs between 700 and 1,200 pounds. The survival of the manatee is threatened mainly due to accidents from boat propellers and habitat destruction. In addition, about thirty species of freshwater fish live in the waters in and around Everglades National Park. These fish are the main source of food for larger fish, birds and alligators. The abundant marine life here also includes green sea turtles, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, sea trout and tarpon. Several types of sharks patrol the shorelines. This area is also home to such unusual marine organisms as stingrays, sponges, seahorses, horseshoe crabs, oysters, and conchs.
Unfortunately, today the rare ecosystem of the Everglades is threatened with extinction. Animals who live here are faced with loss of habitat and disruption of water flow due to man’s need for water and the development of homes and farmlands. Solutions to these problems are underway, but the fate of the Everglades remains uncertain. In recognition of the value and significance of this area to people all over the world, Everglades National Park has been designated an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance.
Here are some questions to ask after listening to the passage:
What name was given to the Everglades by Native Americans?
What is a ‘hammock’?
Why was the National Audubon Society founded in 1905?
What do you think should be done to protect endangered species?