Tampa Bay Waters Show Seagrass Gains
The district maps seagrass in five estuaries spanning the five coastal counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte.
According to study done by scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Tampa Bay saw a 5.3 percent increase in seagrass coverage in 2012.
This is the fourth year in a row there has been increases for the Tampa Bay system, a news release said. The study also shows gains in Lemon Bay and Charlotte Harbor.
The District maps seagrass in five estuaries spanning the five coastal counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte.
Results from the 2012 water management district study show Tampa Bay gained 1,745 acres of seagrass between 2010 and 2012. Tampa Bay now supports 34,642 acres of seagrass beds, the largest amount of seagrass measured since the 1950’s.
“Seagrasses can be gained or lost due to changes in the environment beyond our control,” said Kris Kaufman, a staff environmental scientist for the district in a news release. “For example, heavy rainfall can bring excess freshwater runoff to the bays and affect water quality.”
Water management district officials said the steady increase in seagrass since 2006 has brought the system closer to reaching the Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s goal of 38,000 acres bay wide. The Lemon Bay system gained 67 acres, a 2.2 percent increase.
The St. Joseph’s Sound/Clearwater Harbor system showed a decrease of less than two percent; however both are considered sustainable and stable seagrass resources, according to the district.
Sarasota Bay documented a one percent decrease in seagrass cover.
Why does seagrass matter?
According to the district, "seagrasses are an important barometer of a bay’s health because they require relatively clean water to flourish, thus they are sensitive to changes in water clarity and quality."
The District’s maps are used as a tool for measuring and tracking biological integrity of estuaries as it relates to water quality conditions.
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