District completes Springs Coast Seagrass Mapping project

News Release

_More than 272,000 acres of dense seagrass digitally mapped_

The Southwest Florida Water Management District recently completed a seagrass mapping project to monitor the long-term health of seagrass beds along the Springs Coast.

The project involved digitally mapping more than 525,000 acres of submerged land from the mouth of the Anclote River near Tarpon Springs to the mouth of the Withlacoochee River.

Seagrass generally grows in waters less than 14 feet deep and is an important barometer of the health of estuarine and marine waters because it requires relatively clean water to flourish. Seagrass beds shelter and support a variety of juvenile fish and other marine wildlife such as snook, red drum and scallops.

The Springs Coast was mapped in 1985, 1992 and 1999 by other agencies. This is the first time digital photography has been used, which produces more accurate and cost-effective images. Digital aerial photographs were obtained in spring 2007 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The District then interpreted the imagery, conducted field surveys and developed the maps.

The results of the project revealed there are more than 272,000 acres of dense seagrass beds along the coast, which is similar to mapping results in 1985. Additionally the project identified medium to sparse seagrass covering 87,000 acres and patchy seagrass covering nearly 19,000 acres.

"These beds make up the second largest seagrass meadow in the United States," said Keith Kolasa, District senior environmental scientist. "We'll continue to closely monitor the health of this important natural resource."

Future mapping projects will be conducted every five years with the next project beginning in 2011.

The total cost of this cooperatively funded project was $295,680. The District's Coastal Rivers Basin Board provided $165,680 and the remaining amount was funded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.