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Circular 1348

Prepared in partnership with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program

Integrating Science and Resource Management in Tampa Bay, Florida

Edited by Kimberly K. Yates, Holly Greening, and Gerold Morrison

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Tampa Bay is recognized internationally for its remarkable progress towards recovery since it was pronounced “dead” in the late 1970s. Due to significant efforts by local governments, industries and private citizens throughout the watershed, water clarity in Tampa Bay is now equal to what it was in 1950, when population in the watershed was less than one-quarter of what it is today. Seagrass extent has increased by more than 8,000 acres since the mid-1980s, and fish and wildlife populations are increasing.

Central to this successful turn-around has been the Tampa Bay resource management community’s long-term commitment to development and implementation of strong science-based management strategies. Research institutions and agencies, including Eckerd College, the Florida Wildlife Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, University of South Florida, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, local and State governments, and private companies contribute significantly to the scientific basis of our understanding of Tampa Bay’s structure and ecological function. Resource management agencies, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Agency on Bay Management, the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, depend upon this scientific basis to develop and implement regional adaptive management programs.

The importance of integrating science with management has become fully recognized by scientists and managers throughout the region, State and Nation. Scientific studies conducted in Tampa Bay over the past 10–15 years are increasingly diverse and complex, and resource management programs reflect our increased knowledge of geology, hydrology and hydrodynamics, ecology and restoration techniques. However, a synthesis of this research and its integration into resource management has not been prepared for Tampa Bay since the mid-1980s.

The need for an up-to-date synthesis of Tampa Bay science and management has resulted in the production of this document. The U.S. Geological Survey recently completed a 5-year Tampa Bay Integrated Science Study, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program updated the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Tampa Bay in 2006. These efforts build upon results of the many research and management studies and programs summarized here.

First posted November 15, 2011

For additional information contact:
Kim Yates
USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
600 Fourth Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701-4846
Phone: 727-803-8747

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Yates, K.K., Greening, Holly, and Morrison, Gerold, eds., 2011, Integrating Science and Resource Management in Tampa Bay, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1348, 280 p., available at 



Chapter 1.  An Introduction to Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Study—Integrating Science and Management

References Cited

Chapter 2.  Environmental Setting

Land Use

Climate and Weather

Tributaries and Freshwater Inflow



Coming Challenges—Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise

References Cited

Chapter 3.  Origin and Evolution of Tampa Bay

Geologic History



Anthropogenic Changes to the Bay and its Watershed

References Cited

Chapter 4.  Seagrass

Seagrass Species Found in Tampa Bay

Seagrass Habitat Requirements

Types of Seagrass Beds in Tampa Bay

Factors Affecting Seagrass Cover in Tampa Bay

Water and Sediment Quality

Dredge and Fill

Currents and Wave Energy

Propeller Scarring

Planting and Transplanting

Sea-Level Rise and Other Components of Global Climate Change

Status and Trends in Seagrass Cover

Seagrass Management Strategy

Anticipated Challenges

References Cited

Chapter 5.  Water Quality

Connectivity between the Bay and its Watershed and Airshed

Eutrophication in Tampa Bay—Past Problems, Recent Successes, and Ongoing Challenges

Water-Quality Monitoring

Estimating Pollutant Loads and Bay Responses

Adaptive Management

Current and Anticipated Water-Quality Management Issues

Nutrient Inputs and Eutrophication

Factors Affecting Phytoplankton Productivity in Tampa Bay

External Nitrogen Sources and Estimated Annual Loadings

Internal Nutrient Cycling and its Implications for Bay Management

Setting Water-Quality Goals and Nitrogen Loading Goals Based on the Light Requirements of Seagrasses

Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium

Toxins and Harmful Algal Blooms

Mercury in Fish Tissue

Harmful Algal Blooms

Florida Red Tide

Other Harmful Algal Blooms

Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products, and other Emerging Contaminants

Pathogen-Related Water-Quality Impairments

Anticipated Future Challenges from Ongoing Population Growth

References Cited

Chapter 6.  Freshwater Inflows

Anthropogenic Hydrologic Modifications

Urban Development and Increased Imperviousness

Changes to Surface-Water Conveyance Systems

Coastal Old Tampa Bay Basin

Hillsborough River Basin

Coastal Hillsborough Bay Basin

Alafia River Basin

Coastal Middle Tampa Bay Basin

Little Manatee River Basin

Coastal Lower Tampa Bay and Terra Ceia Bay Basins

Manatee River Basin

Boca Ciega Bay Basin

Changes in Groundwater Systems

Northern Groundwater Basins

Southern Groundwater Basin

Rainfall and Streamflow Patterns

Long-Term Trends in Spring Discharge and Instream Flows

Management Responses to Anthropogenic Alterations

Stormwater Management

Water Withdrawals for Human Use

Discharges of Treated Effluent and Irrigation Water

Future Challenges

References Cited

Chapter 7.  Sediment Contaminants and Benthic Habitat Quality

Contaminant Concentrations and Disbribution

Identification of Contaminants of Concern

Risk-Based Assessment of Contaminant Concentrations

Contaminants of Concern Sources and Estimated Inputs

The Tampa Bay Sediment Quality Management Strategy

Benthic Diversity and Abundance

Next Steps and Future Challenges

References Cited

Chapter 8.  Habitat Protection and Restoration

Emergent Tidal Wetlands

Mangrove Forest

Salt Marsh

Salt Barrens

Oyster Bars

Hard Bottom

Tidal Rivers and Tributaries

Artificial Habitats

Coastal Uplands

Freshwater Wetlands

Hatitat Threats

Dredge and Fill


Water and Sediment Quality

Consumptive Water Use

Climate Change

Sea-Level Rise

Increasing Temperature

Increasing Acidification of Coastal Waters

Management Responses

Paradigms for Habitat Restoration and Protection

"Restoring the Balance"

The "Habitat Mosaic" Approach

Habitat Restoration and Protection Targets

Emergent Tidal Wetlands

Other Habitat Types

References Cited

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