Mapping and Monitoring Seagrass

Researchers at FWRI work with a variety of institutions across the state to monitor seagrass health.


Seagrasses are vital to marine ecosystems, so researchers at FWRI continue to monitor the health and distribution of these habitats through a variety of in depth research. Institutional partnerships and effective technology contribute to a number of seagrass projects throughout the state. One of the most wide-spread studies is the Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring (SIMM) project, a statewide program involving more than 100 collaborators around the state. “We are constantly adding stakeholders and users for our data and for our reports. One of the best uses for the SIMM information was for the BP oil spill,” said Paul Carlson, one of the scientists working on the project. Responders use existing data on seagrasses as a baseline to determine the possible impacts of the spill – a crucial starting point in assessing ecological health after a disaster.

Scientists at FWRI collaborate with NASA to evaluate the effectiveness of different technologies in assessing seagrass health. The NASA project focuses on the utility of different aircrafts such as fixed-wing platforms and rotorcrafts to map and sample seagrass in the Keys and Cedar Key.

Another seagrass data project is a website hosted by the University of South Florida called the Virtual Buoy System (VBS). It involves a click-though map of Florida’s Big Bend which is home to a large span of seagrass habitat. By clicking on one of the pseudo-stations on that map, anyone can pull up the entire history of satellite data for that site. “It basically tells us how water clarity has changed over a 12-year period at that site and we can relate that not only to seagrass impacts in the past, but as restoration projects are carried out in say, Suwannee river basin, to improve water quality,” Carlson said. This enables scientists to analyze how projects have positive impacts on seagrasses over time.  

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The Florida red tide organism produces a toxin that can kill marine animals and affect people.

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