Friday, 12 March 2010

Bella arrives in Biscayne National Park, Florida

Hi all.

I arrived at Biscayne National Park this week. The park is located in South Florida, and I am told it is the largest marine park in the US National Park System. It protects mangrove forests, clear bay waters, the northernmost Florida Keys, a portion of the world's third-largest coral reef, and over 10,000 years of human history. Wow!

I heard it is usual for visitors to the park to have their picture taken at the park entrance sign (to show that they have been there).

So, not wanting to be different, here I am.

When I arrived, I ran straight to the beautiful blue waters of Biscayne Bay, a wide, shallow estuary. (I found out that the average depth was 2-3 meters deep).

It was so beautiful and relaxing sitting on the bench after my journey from the UK. So much to see I started to get fidgety and I kept looking at the mangrove trees along the shoreline. My brother Ed explored some mangrove trees in Hawaii so I just had to get in there to check them out for myself.
The mangrove trees (I later found out these were red mangrove trees) can survive with their roots in saltwater. This helps to stabilize the shoreline so it doesn’t get washed away and protects the land behind as well. Not just that, the roots provides great hiding places for fish, crabs, shrimp and loads of other creatures. Sitting among the roots was a really cool experience.
But I just wanted to know more, so I headed into the Visitor Center to talk to the rangers. On my way in, I saw the sign for Family Fun Fest coming this Sunday. That is the main reason I have travelled to Biscayne National Park...I will be the guests of honor at one of the activity stations at the event. I can't wait!
It is a monthly event now in its 10th year, and draws kids and families from throughout South Florida. This month's theme is "Liter-a-Sea: Oceans of Knowledge" and focuses on how the ocean affects just about everything that happens on Planet Earth. This is great because this is Ed's message too. I will be hosting the station called "Bella's Bear Necessities, all about the 7 basic principles of ocean literacy.

I was anxious to learn more about the park in case visitors asked questions, so I hurried inside the visitor center where I met Rangers Maria and Abby. They were sooooo nice! This is me with ranger Maria.
And below you can see me with Ranger Abby.
They explained how the park's four main ecosystems work together to provide habitats for loads of plants and animals. I bet you didn't know that 95% of the park is covered by water? I didn't until the Ranger Abby told me.

The beautiful exhibits did a great job of explaining about each ecosystem, and the rangers were always willing to help me with questions.
This an amazing coral reef display
There was lots of interesting information about the coral reef in the park as well. Very useful if I get asked questions about this. I watched a short film about the park, then explored Touch Table...
What fun to get to see corals, horseshoe crabs, drift seeds, seashells, skulls and bones up close!

And guess what, I earned a junior ranger badge.

My trip from England was long and tiring, but it was also kind of cramped, so before I left, I made sure to stretch my legs a bit more. Outside, I found a very strange looking tree. It had reddish-orange peeling bark, but there was deep green underneath. It is called a gumbo limbo tree, and is very common in the maritime hardwood forests on the park's islands.

Jumbo limbo trees can photosynthesise with their bark (use sunlight to make food like most plants do with their leaves). So when hurricanes come along and blow all the leaves off the trees, they still have a way to feed themselves. What a great adaptation for a tree that lives in such a stormy area!

Well, I've got to get some rest before Sunday's big event, so that's all for now. Come back for more later! Bella

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