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The Environment of South Florida, A Summary Report

By B. F. McPherson,1 C. Y. Hendrix,2 Howard Klein,1 and H. M. Tyus3
Geological Survey Professional Paper 1011

1 U.S. Geological Survey, Miami, Florida
2 U.S. National Park Service, Everglades National Park, Homestead, Florida
3 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Raleigh, North Carolina

A description of the south Florida ecosystem and changes resulting from man's activities
(Published in 1976)


History of the Study
Regional System
Hydrologic Systems
Final Word
PDF version
The South Florida Environmental Study indicates a growing awareness of the necessity for man to understand the relationship between his own actions and the response of the natural environment to them. Studies of this kind provide a means for man, if he so chooses, to select activities which should be undertaken to enhance the human condition and yet avoid the disastrous ecological consequences that sometime result from actions taken without understanding the natural processes that may be affected.

This study summarizes events that began in 1971 as the efforts of seven Federal agencies to deal with one particular problem - a controversial proposed jetport at the edge of Everglades National Park - and carries them to the point where Federal, State, regional, county, and local government bodies could begin to function innovatively as a working team.

Progress to date has occurred in two stages: Phase one, the results of which are summarized in this report, was the Federal effort to develop the scientific information base needed by Federal, State, and local land-resource managers to make informed decisions affecting both the economy and environment of south Florida. Phase two, already well underway, is the cooperative attempt by all levels of government and their appropriate agencies to utilize the information developed during the phase one effort to make land and water-use decisions for south Florida that not only protect the region's outstanding natural resources but provide economic vitality as well.

Such a working rapprochement between the economy and the environment demands wide citizen participation. Phase two is working to raise general understanding of the basic system of man and nature - the economy and the environment - and how it interacts. As a byproduct of this cooperative process, the general public is becoming involved to the point that it understands the factors that control its destinies. With this understanding comes the ability of citizens to express their desires to resource managers and elected officials. I believe that every additional measure of wisdom that accrues to the citizenry of this Nation enriches our decisionmaking process and contributes to the maintenance of our economy, our environment ... our very way of life.

satellite image of south Florida As a result of the phase one work, it is concluded that the following steps should be taken to protect the south Florida ecosystem from further damage and degradation:

1. Determine, through local and State governments, human population carrying capacity for the region and for the subunits of the region that is compatible with the goal of no further environmental degradation and with resources and energy constraints;

2. Adopt, through local and State governments, a land-use plan based on this determination of carrying capacity;

3. Pass State and local legislation that supports the land-use plan and creates enforcement machinery for its implementation; and

4. Monitor the essential natural resource, economic, sociologic, and energy factors to ensure that the regional policy and land-use plan are being followed. Centralize, standardize, and publish this information on a regular basis.

The problems that set this study in motion have not all been solved. Indeed, many of them have changed and some have totally disappeared. But a host of new ones have taken their places and wait now upon the wisdom we have so far gleaned.

What has been created is a better grasp of the underlying causes for south Florida's environmental problems and some new ways of getting a handle on the slippery nature of change. The challenge that remains is to arrive at rational solutions and to implement them. This cannot be "done," in the sense of finishing. It will require a continuing dialogue and coordinated effort from all the parties that have been involved.

What follows is a study of the components and processes that constitute the south Florida environmental system, a look at the resources of both man and nature and how they can be made to fit together to form alternative viable futures. It is intended to serve as a departure point for the on-going phase two study and for the State and county land-use plans yet to emerge.

Thomas S. Kleppe
Secretary of the Interior (former)
August 23, 1976

Next: Preface >

Please note: this entire publication is available for download as a PDF document (8.8 MB). You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view this file.

International System (SI) and English Equivalents

International System Units (SI) English Equivalent Units
millimetre (mm) = 0.039 inch (in)
centimetre (cm) = 0.39 inch (in)
metres (m) = 3.28 feet (ft)
kilometre (km) = 0.62 mile (mi)
hectare (ha) = 2.47 acres
square kilometre (km2) = 0.386 square mile (mi2)
cubic metre per second (m3/s) = 35.3 cubic feet per second (ft3/s)
cubic metre per day (m3/day) = 264.2 gallons per day (gal/day)
kilogram (kg) = 2.2 pounds (lb)
degrees Celsius (°C) (temperature) = [(1.8 x °C) + 32] degrees Fahrenheit (°F)

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Last updated: 04 September, 2013 @ 02:04 PM (KP)