Long before the establishment of Everglades National Park, large parcels of land near present-day Paradise Key were heavily farmed. These operations continued until 1975 when 6,600 acres of old fields were abandoned. The disturbed soil in these areas enabled the growth of Brazilian pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius, when farming ceased. An aggressive, non-native species, the plant outcompeted native vegetation for resources and soon grew in vast monocultures. Because this highly disturbed acreage was surrounded by native communities, the area was dubbed the "Hole-in-the-Donut".
In a cooperative effort between Everglades National Park, the National Park Foundation, Miami-Dade County, and the private sector, a massive project is currently underway to restore this area. Since 1997, county wetland mitigation bank funds have been used perform large-scale restoration. The goal of this work is to permanently remove the Brazilian pepper and return these areas to a marl prairie wetland community with its associated wildlife.
Did You Know?
Over fifty-nine color varieties of the Liguus Tree Snail have been seen in and around the Everglades ecosystem. They graze on the algae and lichen that grows on smooth-barked trees. During the dry winter months, they are usually sealed to these trees to conserve moisture.