Waterways and IBAs

Florida is home to sixty‐nine distinct ecosystems, each having evolved to host thousands of plant and animal species, including some that are rare and endemic. Native birds help maintain healthy ecosystems. As development, intensive agriculture, and human activity reduce the extent and functions of habitats, many of Florida’s native birds face greater threats.  

Audubon and partner organizations have designated a network of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) throughout the hemisphere. Audubon Florida is responsible for developing and pushing IBA conservation strategies within the state.  

Many IBAs overlap with protected waterways. Water defines Florida’s natural ecosystems. Seasonally abundant rainfall seeps into vast aquifers, wetlands, and floodplains. Freshwater flows through springs and rivers to nourish coastal marshes and seagrass beds.

Although humans have altered much of natural Florida, federal, state, county and local governments have protected considerable acreage as parks and other conservation lands. Of Florida’s 35 million acres, 28% has been designated as conservation land.  

Most of Florida’s waterways are managed in the public trust for the benefit of all citizens and to protect natural systems. However,

  • Reduced groundwater recharge and drainage of swamps and floodplains have depleted nature’s storage systems;
  • Diversion and discharge of wet season stormwater to coastal estuaries contributes contaminants and robs those same estuaries of freshwater during dry seasons and droughts;
  • Pollution from fertilizers and human and animal waste impair springs and rivers, leaving a legacy of human‐caused nutrients in soil, lakes, and groundwater;
  • Overuse of water for farm and landscape irrigation depletes aquifers and surface waters and reduces flow of springs and rivers; and
  • State and local budget cuts have slowed efforts to protect conservation lands and agencies are under pressure to surplus public lands for budget reasons while the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reviewing proposals to increase development and agricultural uses on conservation lands.  

The Florida Legislature cut funds for conservation lands in spite of 75% voter approval of the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. Lawmakers have also failed to strengthen laws to protect springs and estuaries.

Important Bird Areas
Important Bird Areas

Important Bird Areas

Florida's Important Bird Area Program supports the persistence of our state's native avifauna and native habitats through sound land management, habitat preservation, and the work of volunteer citizen scientists.

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Sanctuaries
Conservation

Sanctuaries

Audubon Florida owns over 70 properties in 27 Florida counties, protecting a diversity of habitats with varying degrees of accessibility.

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News & Updates

Audubon Cheers Signing of America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018
News

Audubon Cheers Signing of America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018

Newly-signed federal legislation includes key Everglades restoration project championed by Audubon members

Setting the Record Straight – A Deeper Lake Okeechobee is More Dangerous, Dirtier, and Unhealthy
News

Setting the Record Straight – A Deeper Lake Okeechobee is More Dangerous, Dirtier, and Unhealthy

Harmful algae blooms have captured national attention and elicit quick “solutions” to prevent the blue-green algae slime fouling our coasts. Some continue to place the blame of algae blooms on the shoulders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by falsely claiming that holding more water in Lake Okeechobee could prevent or end our algae crisis.

Algae, Algae Everywhere – Florida’s Water Crisis Makes Headlines Across the Country
News

Algae, Algae Everywhere – Florida’s Water Crisis Makes Headlines Across the Country

Starving chicks, dead fish, and coughing fits are all signs that something is wrong.

Audubon and Partners Urging State to Include Public in Important Wetland Permitting Program Decisions
News

Audubon and Partners Urging State to Include Public in Important Wetland Permitting Program Decisions

Floridians Deserve a Chance to Comment on How State Manages Florida’s Water Resources

BREAKING: County Officials Approve Critical Land Conservation Deal
News

BREAKING: County Officials Approve Critical Land Conservation Deal

Lee County approves purchase of Edison Farms, a 4,000-acre parcel of critical bird and wildlife habitat.

Two Special Places Were Saved Today - The Latest on Florida Forever
News

Two Special Places Were Saved Today - The Latest on Florida Forever

Tell Us: What Special Places Matter to You and Why

Fighting for the Future of the Apalachicola
News

Fighting for the Future of the Apalachicola

Audubon Florida works statewide to protect rare and sensitive bird habitat. In Northwest Florida, the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay are some of the most diverse ecological waterways in the southern U.S.

Federal Rule to Protect Wetlands is Under Attack
News

Federal Rule to Protect Wetlands is Under Attack

Wetlands are ecosystems that make up some of Florida’s most biologically rich habitat. In addition to supporting birds and other wildlife, wetlands help improve water quality and provide flood control benefits.

How you can help, right now