Drought and fire are natural environmental factors that have historically impacted and shaped the Everglades ecosystem. For example, drought and fire help to maintain the existing ecosystem biotic assemblage by periodically eradicating invading flora not adapted to living with this normal aspect of Everglades' ecology. Flora native to the Everglades are adapted to withstand normal drought cycles and all but the most intense fire conditions that burn into the peat substrate. Remobilization of nutrients and other elements from wetland soil following drought/fire and rewetting may actually stimulate plant re-growth, assisting in the recovery of the ecosystem from these events, and play a role in maintaining the geochemical balance of the ecosystem.
Although drought/fire cycles occur naturally in the Everglades' ecosystem, the frequency, intensity, and duration of these events have been altered by anthropogenic activities. The hydrology of the ecosystem has been changed by the construction of water management structures starting around 1900 and continuing through the 1970s. These structures include canals, levees, and pumping stations around Lake Okeechobee and within the Everglades. In addition, water management practices have preferentially moved water toward agricultural and urban areas and away from the Everglades during periods of low rainfall. One result of these practices has been more severe drought and fire cycles within the ecosystem compared to pre-development activity. A major goal of restoration efforts in the Everglades is to restore a more natural flow of water into the ecosystem to alleviate some of the extreme drought and fire conditions witnessed during the past several decades.