Estuary Monitoring Benefits Florida Keys Waterways

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    MIAMI, Florida, September 24, 2008 (ENS) - The South Florida Water Management District Tuesday entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with Miami-Dade County to support long-term environmental monitoring in northeastern Florida Bay, Manatee Bay and Barnes Sound.

    The monitoring effort documents how changes in estuary water quality impact seagrass growth off the south Florida coast.

    "Our water bodies at the southern end of Florida’s peninsula are valuable indicators of water quality improvements upstream," said Michael Collins, SFWMD Governing Board member and resident of the Florida Keys.

    "Monitoring provides an important tool for achieving healthier ecosystems here in the Keys and throughout the region," he said.

    The monitoring program, known as the South Florida Estuarine Submerged Aquatic Vegetation and Water Quality Monitoring Network, is conducted by Miami-Dade’s Department of Environmental Resources Management.

    Scientists from the county agency collect water samples from 12 basins in the study area and analyze them for a variety of chemical, physical and biological features.

    The water samples provide information about water quality at a total of 96 random and 10 fixed monitoring stations in the Florida Bay region. These include Manatee Bay, Barnes Sound, Highway Creek, Long Sound, Little Blackwater Sound, northwest Blackwater Sound, Joe Bay, Alligator Bay, Davis Cove, Trout Cove, Little Madeira Bay and an area south of Little Madeira Bay.

    This five-year agreement extends a long-term monitoring effort, which began in 1979, to identify impacts to the estuaries from upstream water management activities.

    The data collected provide a substantial period of record that serves as a baseline to evaluate estuarine restoration.

    The new agreement supports monitoring from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2013. Total South Florida Water Management District funding for the five-year project is $539,894.

    Located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Peninsula, Florida Bay lies between the mainland and the Florida Keys chain of islands.

    A shallow inner-shelf lagoon, Florida Bay is located at the southern end of the south Florida watershed. It is an area where fresh water from the Everglades mixes with the salty waters from the Gulf of Mexico to form an estuary that is surrounded by mangroves forests and encompasses over 200 mangrove islands.

    Its nearly 1,000 square miles of interconnected basins, grassy mud banks, and mangrove islands are nesting, nursery, and feeding grounds for a host of marine animals - the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, the loggerhead turtle, bottlenose dolphins, a variety of bird species and many gamefish.

    Parts of the bay are also the nursery grounds for the economically valuable pink shrimp and Caribbean spiny lobster. Florida Bay waters support lucrative shrimp and stone crab fisheries.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says signs of environmental degradation in Florida Bay include extremely high salinity, large algae blooms and expanses of dead seagrass.

    The current condition of Florida Bay is the result of greater environmental problems occurring throughout the entire south Florida ecosystem, NOAA says.

    Over the past 50 years the south Florida ecosystem has been degraded by disruptions to the natural hydrology. Large areas have been greatly altered by engineered flood control and water distribution for agriculture and urban development. Continuing development to serve an influx of people has further stressed the system.

    Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.