Florida's mangroves: Florida is home to approximately 2,700 square kilometers of this dominant subtropical coastal ecosystem. Florida's mangrove swamps are concentrated along the southwest coast, where the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp drain to the Gulf of Mexico. Mangroves extend up to 30 miles inland on the southwest coast and spread along the more northern coasts (north of Cape Canaveral on the Atlantic Coast and north of Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast).
Development has led to the destruction of mangrove ecosystems in Florida, so now they are protected. It is illegal to remove mangroves from the shoreline.
Mangrove vegetation: Three of the 10 known mangrove species dominate Florida's mangroves: red mangroves, black mangroves, and white mangroves. Red mangroves have dense roots and are found along coastal edges that face the sea. Black mangroves are most common in hammock wetlands and basin swamps. A mangrove understory contains mangrove ferns, but few other species can survive the shady, high salinity conditions.
Mangrove animals: While species diversity depends on the vegetation present, a wide diversity of wildlife is typical in mangrove ecosystems. Florida mangroves are home to 220 fish species, 181 bird species (including the Wood Stork, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, cormorant, Brown Pelican, egrets and herons), 24 reptile and amphibian species (including alligators, crocodiles and turtles), and 18 mammal species (including bears, wildcats, pumas and rats). Filter feeders (especially barnacles, coon oysters and the eastern oyster) are prominent species in marsh swamps. They attach themselves to mangrove stems and prop roots and because they filter organic material from the tide. Crabs are another important mangrove species, as they help maintain biodiversity. Crabs burrow in the sediments, prey on mangrove seedlings, facilitate litter decomposition and help convert detritus energy to the ecosystem's birds and fish.
Well-known mangroves: With an area of about 600 square kilometers, Florida's Ten Thousand Islands is one of the world's largest mangrove swamps. Much of its initial area was reduced by development, which led to mangrove conservation laws.