Wetlands in Broward County

History of Wetlands in the Southeast 

Large areas of wetlands were drained and converted for other land uses such as housing developments and farmland. With the exception of the historic coastal ridge which runs along Dixie Highway and U.S. 1 (Federal Highway), most of Southeast Florida was part of a larger, productive wetlands ecosystem: The Everglades.

View the Military Map of Florida's Peninsula South of Tampa Bay from 1856. 
Types of Wetlands in Broward County 
After the passage of the Swamp and Overflowed Lands Grant Act, drainage districts were formed. By the late 1920’s much of the wetlands in South Florida, were drained by numerous canals designed to reclaim land.

In Broward County that reclaimed land is now populated with over 1.4 million residents. Although development pressures have converted a portion of Florida’s historic wetland areas to lakes and filled areas, two-thirds of Broward County is set aside as water conservation areas and remains a part of the Everglades.

Broward County’s wetlands range in size from tiny, isolated patches to larger systems such as the Everglades water conservation areas. Because they are so varied, wetlands can be difficult to recognize. Some are wet all of the time and others may look dry most of the time. Wetlands do not have to be part of a larger system to be valuable. Isolated and intermittent wetlands provide important habitat for many important species such as frogs, lizards, snakes and turtles.

There are two general categories of wetlands in Broward County, Coastal and Freshwater (non-tidal).  Both types of wetlands are further categorized as swamps which are characterized by shrubs or trees such as maples, gums, bald cypresses and mangroves; or as marshes, characterized by grasses and sedges, where few if any trees and shrubs grow.

Coastal Wetlands 

Coastal wetlands consist of saltwater mangrove swamp areas along the Intracoastal Waterway and its adjoining canals with some intermittent saltwater marsh areas. These provide habitat for wading birds such as the great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbill, and nursery areas for saltwater fish including tarpon, snook and snapper species.

Freshwater (non-tidal) Wetlands 

Freshwater wetlands consist of cypress swamps, pond apple and cypress sloughs, freshwater marshes, saw grass marshes and wet prairies. Cypress swamps and sloughs provide habitat for many animal species considered threatened or endangered, such as the White Ibis. Air plants, ferns, orchids and lilies are often found perched on tree buttresses and limbs in the swamp. Freshwater marshes are the open areas found along lakes and contain low-growing species such as grasses and cattails. Saw grass marshes are dominated by tall, sometimes impenetrable saw grass and found in and adjacent to the Everglades. Wet prairies are shallow basins covered with grasses and other low plants adapted to growing in wet areas, providing habitat for foxes, turtles, lizards, snakes and fish. Wet prairies can also remain dry for long periods of time.