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Thursday 23rd May
Florida USA Information - Page 1
The State of Florida is situated in the south east of the USA. Most of Florida is a peninsula surrounded to the east by the Atlantic Ocean and to the west by the Straights of Florida which separate it from Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.

At the tip of the peninsula there is a string of islands called the Florida Keys; the last island in the chain is little more than 100km from the Tropic of Cancer, the Bahamas and Cuba. To the north, Florida borders on Alabama and Georgia.

Florida is approximately the size of England and Wales. The landscape is mainly flat plain except for the undulating plateau of the Panhandle and the limestone outcrops known as the south Florida rock lands at the southern tip of the peninsula.

Florida has two climatic zones: northern Florida has rain all year with a subtropical, warm temperate climate and southern Florida has a damp and changeable tropical climate with between three and five months without rain.

The main bedrock underlying Florida is limestone which is porous and can collect water. This has given the region an enormous reservoir of fresh water which supplies its many lakes and streams.

As a subtropical region with a very lengthy coastline, Florida is particularly at risk from storms and hurricanes. Weather forecasts are therefore very important to the people and the economy of the state. Particular attention is given to preparation for hurricanes including the evacuation of people to safety.

Florida's coastline with its many islands and coral reefs has been particularly dangerous for shipping. In the Keys many people made their living from salvaging wrecks until a proper system of lighthouses and coastal protection was established.

Florida's coastline consists of four main types of environment. The sandy beaches are most famous as the nesting sites of sea turtles. Along the south west coast and the Keys the mangrove swamp is the main environment. The other two coastal environments of Florida are the coral reefs and the salt marshes and estuaries.

The State has thousands of lakes and many springs. Some of the springs are warm or salty but most provide clear, fresh water.

The most famous fresh water swamps of Florida, the Everglades, are really a very shallow river, many miles wide, flowing from Lake Okeechobee, one of America's largest lakes, down to the sea.

Some of the inland areas, particularly around Lake Okeechobee, are covered by prairie (open grasslands) and approximately half of Florida consists of forests such as pine forests.

All these natural environments and their native flora and fauna are endangered by the rapid development of tourism and the urban areas and by the increasing rate of water use by towns and cities.

Among the most endangered animals in Florida are the panther and the manatee. There are only between twenty to fifty surviving Florida panthers. The manatee (sea-cow) which lives in sheltered waters is often killed by the propellers of boats.

The State has realized the dangers these animals and their environment face. Much of the Everglades has been a National Park since 1947. This swamp is home to many alligators but only a few crocodiles remain. Other amphibians and reptiles also depend on the swamps for their existence.

The swamps and salt marshes of Florida are the home of many varieties of birds such as herons, ospreys and eagles.

Florida was originally colonised by Spain and this Spanish influence still shows in much of its architecture. The warm climate and the State's reliance on tourism has also encouraged other Mediterranean styles such as Italian and Moorish.

The accelerating development of Florida's tourist centres in the 1930s produced the Art Deco architecture for which Miami Beach in particular is famous. After World War II, the pace of development increased and many high rise hotels and apartment blocks were built.

Architecture of note includes Frank Lloyd Wright's Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College and the Seaside pedestrian planned community (Duany and Plater-Zyberk).

In the 1980s Miami became one of the USA's most important business and finance centres, which produced many giant office buildings such as the Centrust Tower in Miami.

The population of Florida has risen steadily and was over eighteen million in 2008.

The present inhabitants come from many different ethnic and cultural groups. Of the original Native American population there remain a few thousand Seminole and Miccosukee people. One-fifth of the population are Afro-Americans and Florida has also received immigrants from Europe and Russia. In recent years many refugees from Cuba, Central America and South East Asia have come to Florida, as have a substantial number of emigrants from the nearby West Indies.

The pleasant climate has made the State a popular retirement area and people have moved there from the colder northern states in their later years.

Florida, like America as a whole, has English as its basic language. The many groups of immigrants have brought their own languages with them. Spanish has become increasingly important.

The religious life of Florida follows that of the rest of the USA. The State is predominantly Christian with Roman Catholics and Baptists each making around one-third of the total. The other religions of the world such as Judaism and Islam are also represented.

As with language and religion, Florida draws on the many cuisines of its immigrant populations to add variety to its basic American cookery.

The State is one of America's largest growers of citrus fruit and its long coast line and many islands provide a plentiful supply of fish and shellfish.

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