How Human Activities & Natural Factors Affect Florida's Ecosystems

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  • 0:00 Various Biomes in Florida
  • 1:00 Population
  • 1:52 Citrus and Mining
  • 3:11 Sinkholes
  • 3:49 Swamps
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.

With nearly 20 million residents and millions of other visitors, Florida's human population leaves a massive impact on its environment. Sinkholes, swamps, citrus farming, and phosphate mining only further the effects.

Various Biomes of Florida

If you only think of cartoon mouse ears and Cuban sandwiches on the beach when you think of Florida, think again. The Sunshine State is an amazingly diverse environment with many of the only subtropical and tropical biomes in the United States. A biome is the term given to regions with similar climates, vegetation, and animals. Deserts, swamps, and jungles are all biomes. Moving southward through the state, the biomes of Florida transition from subtropical grasslands and subtropical pine forests to tropical swamps and grasslands. In fact, the name 'Florida' comes from early Spanish explorers' initial impressions about the peninsula being full of fragrant tropical flowers. However, such an environment does not stay stable, and human interaction is hastening changes to Florida's ecosystems.


Almost 20 million people call Florida home, making it one of the most populous states in the country. Those 20 million people are not spread out evenly, but clump around the coasts and throughout the central Interstate 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando to Daytona Beach. Unluckily for the ecosystems of Florida, 20 million people leave quite an impression. Constant development affects many vulnerable ecosystems, while the aggregate effects of so many cars means quite a bit of air pollution. Meanwhile, those 20 million people demand air conditioning, which itself leads to greater pollution as well. That is not counting the millions of people who visit Florida every year for the aforementioned mouse ears and Cuban sandwiches. However, the biggest impacts of humans on Florida's ecosystems come far from the shiny lights of Miami and Clearwater Beach.

Citrus and Mining

Just about everyone has heard of Florida orange juice. The state makes billions every year off of the production of citrus, with major juice companies having headquarters throughout the citrus growing central part of the state. However, citrus farming is far from an environmentally-friendly practice. Millions of tons of chemicals, from pesticides to fertilizers, become runoff in Florida's waterways. Runoff is the term given to chemicals and other wastes that are carried into the water systems by rain. The major waterways of Florida tend to move southward, especially towards Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Because of this waste, fish caught in South Florida waterways are often not safe to eat.

Another major activity that many people are unfamiliar with is the aftermath of phosphate mining. Florida remains a world leader in phosphate mining. Phosphates are common in everything from fertilizer to toothpaste. Often phosphate deposits are buried under deep piles of sand. This sand is removed and thrown into large piles called sand pilings. When mines have been exhausted and shut down, or decommissioned, the resulting piles and the entire decommissioned mine itself require significant land management skills in order to return them to useable land.

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