seagrass

Seagrass Increases in Sarasota Bay, Lemon Bay and Charlotte Harbor

h2. *_Charlotte Harbor Shows Rebound After 2008 Decline_*

Scientists with the "Southwest Florida Water Management District's Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program(SWIM)":/projects/swim/ have recorded increases in seagrass presence in Lemon Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor over the past two years.

According to the "District's(Southwest Florida Water Management District)":/ 2010 seagrass mapping study, seagrass acreage in the three water bodies has increased 960 acres since they were last mapped in 2008. All together, Lemon Bay, Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor now support 33,838 acres of seagrass, more than at any time measured since the 1950s. Lemon Bay saw a 6.1 percent increase and Charlotte Harbor seagrass increased by 4.2 percent. With a slight increase of 0.4 percent, Sarasota Bay marine habitats contain more seagrass than they did in the 1950s.

"Seagrass(Seagrass Photos)":/newsroom/multimedia/photos/album/13/ is an important marine habitat and a valuable tool for scientists throughout the state of Florida. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than six feet deep, but can be found in deeper waters off Stephens Point of Sarasota and Devilfish Key near Boca Grande Pass. Seagrass is an important barometer of a bay's health because it requires relatively clean water to flourish and serves as "the nurseries of the bay," sheltering and supporting a variety of juvenile fish and other marine creatures.

Kris Kaufman, a District environmental scientist, said that both seagrass acreage and water quality have shown improvements.

"We've analyzed more than 20 years of data and found significant increasing trends in seagrass cover over time," said Kaufman. She cited several factors that could have contributed to gains in seagrass growth.

"Current digital mapping technologies that provide the highest quality data in coordination with extensive field work can improve the detection of seagrass and biannual changes in seagrass," said Kaufman. "Also, overall lower rainfall since 2006 means less stormwater runoff flowing into the bay, contributing to the clearer water noted over the last few years."

In addition to monitoring seagrass resources, SWIM is also charged with conducting restoration projects funded in part by the District.

"Since the seagrass monitoring program began in the late 1980s, the communities around the District's SWIM Program priority water bodies have experienced impressive improvements in wastewater and stormwater treatment," said Jennette Seachrist, District SWIM Program manager. "The District is working hard to implement regional stormwater improvement projects that reduce pollution entering these water bodies."

As part of the seagrass mapping program, SWIM scientists assess seagrass coverage in five gulf coast estuaries. Every two years maps are produced from aerial photographs and then verified for accuracy by conducting field surveys. The results are used to track trends in seagrass in estuaries throughout southwest Florida and to evaluate ongoing water quality improvement efforts.

The District worked with a local consultant to complete this project and several state and local agencies, including Pinellas County, provide assistance with field surveys.

For more information about the District's SWIM Program, please visit the District's web site at "WaterMatters.org/projects/swim/":/projects/swim/.

To learn more about how you can help preserve Florida's seagrass, which is critical to protecting marine life, water quality and Florida's ocean-based economy, visit "www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/":www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/.

District Study Reveals Record Seagrass Growth in Tampa Bay

Scientists with the "Southwest Florida Water Management District's Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program(SWIM)":/projects/swim/ recorded an 11 percent increase in seagrass growth in "Tampa Bay(SWIM Priority Water Body: Tampa Bay)":/projects/swim/tampabay.php since 2008, the largest increase in seagrass growth since the District began the seagrass mapping program. The "District(Southwest Florida Water Management District)":/ study also shows gains in St. Joseph Sound and Clearwater Harbor.

According to the District's 2010 seagrass mapping study, seagrass acreage in the three water bodies has increased 3,313 acres since 2008. Tampa Bay, St. Joseph Sound and Clearwater Harbor now support 50,382 acres of seagrass, more than at any time measured since the 1950s. Tampa Bay saw the largest increase: 3,250 acres. The St. Joseph Sound and Clearwater Harbor areas recorded a combined 62-acre increase in seagrass.

"Seagrass(Seagrass Photos)":/newsroom/multimedia/photos/album/13/ is an important marine habitat and a valuable tool for scientists throughout the state of Florida. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than six feet deep, but can be found in waters around Egmont Key at 15 feet deep. Seagrass is an important barometer of a bay's health because it requires relatively clean water to flourish and serves as "the nurseries of the bay," sheltering and supporting a variety of juvenile fish and other marine creatures.

Kris Kaufman, a District environmental scientist, said that both seagrass growth and water quality have shown improvements.

"We've analyzed more than 20 years of data and found significant increasing trends in seagrass cover over time," said Kaufman. She cited several factors that could have contributed to gains in seagrass growth.

"Current digital mapping technologies that provide the highest quality data in coordination with extensive field work can improve the detection of seagrass and biannual changes in seagrass," said Kaufman. "Also, overall lower rainfall since 2006 means less stormwater runoff flowing into the bay, contributing to the clearer water noted over the last few years."

In addition to monitoring seagrass resources, SWIM is also charged with conducting restoration projects funded in part by the District.

"Since the seagrass monitoring program began in the late 1980s, the greater Tampa Bay area has experienced impressive improvements in wastewater and stormwater treatment," said Jennette Seachrist, District SWIM Program manager. "The District is working hard to implement regional stormwater improvement projects that reduce pollution entering Tampa Bay."

As part of the seagrass mapping program, SWIM scientists assess seagrass coverage in five gulf coast estuaries. Every two years maps are produced from aerial photographs and then verified for accuracy by conducting field surveys. The results are used to track trends in seagrass in estuaries throughout southwest Florida and to evaluate ongoing water quality improvement efforts.

The District worked with a local consultant to complete this project and several state and local agencies, including Pinellas County, provide assistance with field surveys.

For more information about the District's SWIM Program, please visit the District's web site at "WaterMatters.org/projects/swim/":/projects/swim/.

To learn more about how you can help preserve Florida's seagrass, which is critical to protecting marine life, water quality and Florida's ocean-based economy, visit "www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/":www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/.

Tampa Bay continues to see gain in seagrass growth

Scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program continue to see an increase in seagrass growth in Tampa Bay, St. Joseph Sound and Clearwater Harbor but caution that the results may be due to the drought.

According to the District’s 2008 seagrass mapping study, seagrass acreage in Tampa Bay has increased nearly 1,300 acres since 2006. District studies show that since 2004 Tampa Bay continues to regain seagrass at an annual rate of two to three percent and now supports more seagrass than at any time measured since the 1950s. Tampa Bay currently has about 29,647 acres of seagrass.

According to the 2008 seagrass mapping study, the St. Joseph Sound/Clearwater Harbor has recorded a 16 percent change in seagrass.

Seagrass is an important marine habitat and a valuable tool for scientists throughout the state of Florida. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than six feet deep, but can be found in waters around Egmont Key at 15 feet deep. Seagrass is an important barometer of a bay’s health because it requires relatively clean water to flourish and serves as “the nurseries of the bay,” sheltering and supporting a variety of juvenile fish and other marine creatures.

Kris Kaufman, a District environmental scientist, cautions that the improvements may be due, in part, to the ongoing drought, since less rain means less stormwater runoff flowing into the bay. Polluted runoff clouds water, preventing sunlight from reaching the underwater grasses. Additionally, the lack of rain made the water clear and provided excellent conditions when the aerial photos for the study were taken. This allowed for better views of the seagrass in deeper waters that are often hard to see clearly.

The District began its formal seagrass mapping program in the late 1980s. As part of the program, SWIM scientists assess seagrass coverage in five gulf coast estuaries. Every two years maps are produced from aerial photographs and then verified for accuracy by conducting field surveys. The results are used to track trends in seagrass in estuaries throughout southwest Florida and to evaluate ongoing water quality improvement efforts.

The District works with a consultant to complete this project and several state and local agencies, including the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, provide assistance with field surveys.

In addition to an overall increase in seagrass, water clarity in Tampa Bay during the project was also the best it has been since record-keeping began in the 1970s. Data on water clarity is collected by the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission from more than 60 sampling stations scattered throughout the bay.

“Results of our seagrass mapping project indicate SWIM and other stormwater improvement projects lead to healthier water bodies,” said Jennette Seachrist, SWIM Program manager. “Our goal is to continue to reduce nutrient loading and improve water quality.”

For more information about the District’s SWIM Program, please visit the District’s web site at http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/projects/swim/.

To learn more about how you can help preserve Florida’s seagrass, which is critical to protecting marine life, water quality and Florida’s ocean-based economy, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/.

Seagrass continues to increase in Sarasota Bay and Lemon Bay

Slight decline documented in Charlotte Harbor

Scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program continue to see an increase in seagrass growth in Sarasota Bay and Lemon Bay.

According to the District’s 2008 seagrass mapping study, seagrass acreage in Sarasota Bay has increased nearly 2,786 acres since 2006, a 28 percent increase. This increase follows a seven percent increase seen between 2004 and 2006. Lemon Bay also saw a five percent increase in seagrass acreage or 149 acres since 2006.

Seagrass is an important marine habitat and a valuable tool for scientists throughout the state of Florida. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than six feet deep, but in certain portions of Sarasota Bay can be found at depths of 12 feet or more. Seagrass is an important barometer of a bay’s health because it requires relatively clean water to flourish and serves as “the nurseries of the bay,” sheltering and supporting a variety of juvenile fish and other marine creatures.

Kris Kaufman, a District environmental scientist, cautions that the improvements may be due, in part, to the ongoing drought, since less rain means less stormwater runoff flowing into the bays. Polluted runoff clouds water, preventing sunlight from reaching the underwater grasses. Additionally, the lack of rain made the water clearer and provided excellent conditions when the aerial photos for the study were taken. This allowed for better views of the seagrass in deeper waters that are often hard to see clearly.

While Sarasota Bay and Lemon Bay both saw increases, Charlotte Harbor saw a five percent decrease in seagrass acreage. A majority of the losses are seen at the edges of seagrass beds along the East Wall.

These three southern most SWIM waterbodies have maintained relatively stable seagrass acreages since the District seagrass mapping program began in the 1980s. As part of the program, SWIM scientists assess seagrass coverage in five gulf coast estuaries. Every two years maps are produced from aerial photographs and then verified for accuracy by conducting field surveys. The results are used to track trends in seagrass in estuaries throughout southwest Florida and to evaluate ongoing water quality improvement efforts.

The District works with a consultant to complete this project and several state and local agencies, including Sarasota County, provide field work to verify elements of the maps.

In addition to an overall increase in seagrass, water clarity has improved over the last few years. Data on water clarity is collected by Manatee and Sarasota counties and Mote Marine Laboratory for the three systems.

“Results of our seagrass mapping project indicate SWIM and other stormwater improvement projects lead to healthier water bodies,” said Jennette Seachrist, SWIM Program manager. “Our goal is to continue to reduce nutrient loading and improve water quality.”

For more information about the District’s SWIM Program, please visit the District’s web site at http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/projects/swim/.

To learn more about how you can help preserve Florida’s seagrass, which is critical to protecting marine life, water quality and Florida’s ocean-based economy, visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/habitats/seagrass/.