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To know Everglades, you must become acquainted with some of its diverse communities. The physical conditions determining the existence of a particular community may seem subtle—just a few inches difference in elevation, or an accumulation of peat in a depression in the limestone bedrock, for example. But often, the change in your surroundings as you step from one community to another is startling—for it is abrupt and complete. In Everglades, the dividing line between two habitats may separate an almost entirely different association of plants and animals.

Use the trails that have been laid out to help you see the communities. They make access easy for you; the rest is up to you. Be observant: notice the stemlike root of a saw-palmetto in a damp pothole of the pineland; look closely at the periphyton that plays such an important role in the glades food chain. Note the difference in feeding methods of wading birds; each species has its own niche in the habitat. Most of all, get into the habit of thinking of each animal, each plant, as a member of the closely woven web of life that makes up an integrated community.

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