Brenda  Brown

The South Florida Ecosystem, also known as the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, is a unique, complex, and biologically diverse landscape.  Extending from the Chain of Lakes south of Orlando through the reefs southwest of the Florida Keys, its 18,000 square miles includes sub­tropical uplands, wetlands, and coral reefs.   It is comprised of two major drainage basins, the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades Watershed and the Big Cypress Basin.   Land uses include National Parks, Preserves, Marine Sanctuaries and other conservation areas, as well as agriculture, mining, and rapidly expanding urban and other residential areas.   Water -- its quantity, quality, distribution and timing -- is vital throughout.

Although humans have influenced this landscape for hundreds of years, their effects accelerated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with grand-scale land projects: the many canals built to facilitate transportation, drainage, flood control and irrigation; the Herbert Hoover Dike; the roads small and large -- most dramatically Tamiami Trail and Alligator Alley -- that alter water flow and often fragment habitats; the exotic plants brought to Florida, however intentionally, from far corners of the globe; the by-products of agriculture and urban living carried by water throughout much of the system.   Certainly in this ecosystem and its landscape, humans and nature, as well as the ecosystem's health and fate, are, for good or ill, inextricably entwined.   And indeed, many of the ecosystem restoration efforts involve changes to human-built structures.
This landscape, so rich in flora and fauna, is however, visually subtle.  Its functions, variations, and features are often not obvious and relationships between urban and relatively natural areas are often obscure.  Moreover, the notion of this
area as one ecosystem, one watershed, as one integrated and interdependent region, is not reinforced by deliniations of cities, counties, or laws.  Because many people are newcomers or tourists, and here for relatively short periods,
collective memory tends to be short, and children who are educated in schools about this environment often do not remain here as adults.

The South Florida Ecosystem Interpretive Signage System was conceived in response to these conditions.  An
integrated signage system will mark significant features of the South Florida, or Greater Everglades, Ecosystem, and interpret it as a single interdependent region.  Signs, located at key points along roads, highways, trails, and at interpretive sites will identify water bodies, structures and other landscape features, inhabitants and processes
significant to the ecosystem and its functions - from headwaters to canals, from rivers to water treatment wetlands - in urban, rural and "natural" areas.  Each sign will also depict graphically each site's relationship to the larger landscape system, that is, it will convey the relationship of each part to the whole.  While each sign may be slightly different, its graphic design will show it is a member of the larger, ecosystem-wide, family of signs.  Such accessible signage will contribute significantly to public understanding of this region's complex but often subtle environment; the better informed people are about their environment, the more sound will be their decisions concerning it.  This signage system is
intended to foster a sense of South Florida as a distinctive region as well as ecosystem.  It will stand as a self-sufficient project to reveal and interpret the South Florida landscape and some of the complicated relationships of its ecology,
but it can also be the cornerstone of more comprehensive, integrated and multi-faceted environmental education and interpretive programs about the ecosystem and the restoration projects therein.

* Client: Office of the Executive Director,
  South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
previous 2.JPG
next 2.JPG