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Seagrass die-off could impact how you enjoy Old Tampa Bay

Last year alone, there was less than half the amount of seagrass that was mapped in Old Tampa Bay in 2018. That's why researchers are trying to figure out the cause.

OLDSMAR – It’s serenity for many and recreational for some. Every year, thousands of people visit Upper Tampa Bay Park located right on the Pinellas/Hillsborough County line.

The park is surrounded by a body of water that bears its name. But parts of Tampa Bay have researchers looking for answers to a startling trend. The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is two years in on a five-year study of Old Tampa Bay, which begins just south of the Gandy Bridge into the Oldsmar area.

“We are concerned about this segment because we’ve lost a lot of seagrass. In this bay segment...we are doing some extra studies to better understand what’s driving some of those losses. This study will analyze the water temperature and whether warmer temps are a contributing factor to the loss,” said Maya Burke with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Data from the organization shows that seagrass coverage in Old Tampa Bay peaked in 2016 but has continued to decline since.

Burke says the bay has seen losses of seagrass before, but this time it could be different.

“We may not see the same type of recovery if we have these additional stressors like temperature. So that’s why we’re doing this study to see how temperature may be different in this segment and may affect seagrass recovery,” Burke said.