This report describes the status and trends of seagrass communities in estuaries and nearshore waters of Florida.
Florida seagrass beds are extremely valuable marine habitats. Many economically important fish and shellfish species depend on seagrass beds for critical stages of their life history. Seagrasses provide food and shelter for endangered mammals and turtles and also play a role in nutrient cycles, sediment stabilization, coastal biodiversity, and the global carbon cycle. Seagrasses cover more than 2 million acres of shallow sediments near Florida's coastline and in its estuaries and bays. An additional 2 million acres likely exists offshore in deeper waters in the Big Bend region and off the southwest Florida coast.
During the 20th century, seagrasses experienced significant declines in acreage, as well as changes in species and in the density and size of beds. Recognizing the value of seagrass beds spurred agencies and governments, from local to federal, to restore and protect this resource. This report is the first effort by the Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring (SIMM) program to provide scientists, resource managers, legislators, and other stakeholders a summary of the status of seagrasses in Florida. The FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute developed the SIMM program to protect and manage seagrasses in Florida by providing a collaborative resource for seagrass mapping, monitoring, and data sharing. Given the budget problems that many agencies are facing, the program directs its efforts at leveraging resources as well as decreasing and sharing costs for seagrass mapping and monitoring.
The editors organized this report to provide information to a wide range of readers. The Executive Summary gives an overview of the monitoring and mapping efforts throughout Florida and a statewide summary of seagrass status. The Introduction presents the history of the SIMM program and the rationale for developing it. Chapters provide information from researchers and managers on each estuary or region of Florida coastal waters. The 24 chapters are in geographical order, beginning in the western Panhandle and ending with the northern Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast. Within each chapter, contributors provide a concise overall assessment and color-coded "report cards" of seagrass status, as well as a map of the distribution of seagrass beds in the estuary or subregion, created using the latest available mapping product. Most chapters include additional information from monitoring and management programs.
Note: Some chapters have been updated since the release of version 1.0. These updates are noted next to the individual chapter listing.
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Authors, Contributors, and SIMM Team Members
Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound
Santa Rosa Sound and Big Lagoon
St. Andrew Bay
St. Joseph Bay
Franklin County Coastal Waters (v1.1, updated 02/2015)
Northern Big Bend
Southern Big Bend
Suwannee Sound, Cedar Keys and Waccasassa Bay
Western Pinellas County
Sarasota Bay and Lemon Bay
Charlotte Harbor Region
Ten Thousand Islands
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Lake Worth Lagoon
Southern Indian River (v1.1, updated 09/2014)
Northern Indian River (v1.1, updated 03/2015)