Date of Award

Winter 12-20-2020

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John van Buren


How does human development of land affect the surrounding ecosystems? This paper explores the development of the Everglades throughout the 1900s, which turned much of this wetland into farmland. Rerouting and restructuring of the Everglades’ remaining waterways has caused fertilizer-rich water from the farms to be dumped into the ocean. This fertilizer pollution has caused aggressive outbreaks of red tide, a toxic algal bloom which depletes the ocean’s oxygen and kills aquatic ecosystems, off the coast of Southwest Florida. Chapter one presents quantitative data about land development in the Everglades, focusing mainly on the amount of wetland before the 1900s versus today, as well as data about red tide outbreaks off the southwest coast of Florida. Chapter two discusses the development of the Everglades throughout the 1900s, which turned this land from wetland to farmland. Chapter three discusses the impact of the red tide outbreaks on Florida’s economy, focusing on the financial losses in the industries of tourism, health care, and fishing, as well as the loss of natural capital. Chapter four addresses the sociological side of these issues, focusing mainly on society’s lack of research, knowledge, and empathy towards ecosystem degradation caused by land development. Chapter five explores government policies that have been put in place to help mitigate this issue, such as policies to limit fertilizer runoff and additional research on how to break up the algal blooms. This chapter also discusses actions being taken by community-based groups in affected counties in Florida. Finally, in chapter six, I share my policy recommendations for preventing harmful land development, limiting fertilizer runoff, and controlling ongoing red tide outbreaks.