Restoring Florida's Habitats
Florida's population has increased steadily since the 1950s, with most of this growth occurring along Florida's coasts, resulting in a significant loss of natural landscapes. To compensate, public and public-private partnerships have funded property purchases for habitat protection and restoration. The Tampa Bay Estuary Program works with a variety of governmental and non-governmental partners to enhance, establish, and protect valuable habitats. These projects often bring together scientists and community volunteers to effectively manage and restore properties.
The Value of Healthy And Viable Habitats
Functional habitats containing native species are vital for the health and viability of waterbodies and the many organisms that live in and around the water. Native vegetation, including grasses, shrubs, and trees, serves many purposes such as:
- Filtering pollutants from urban and residential areas
- Decreasing the velocity of stormwater runoff
- Controlling soil erosion
- Providing habitat, nursery areas, and food for faunal species
Humans also benefit from healthy habitats for recreation and other activities, including wildlife viewing.
The habitats of Tampa Bay, such as seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and wet prairies, provide food, shelter, and other important services that support numerous birds, fish, mammals, and invertebrates. The Habitat Master Plan, updated in 2020, seeks to maximize the potential habitat protection and restoration opportunities within the Tampa Bay watershed. This “Maximizing the Potential” approach, is informed by past changes, as determined through a three-decade habitat change analysis, and over forty years of habitat restoration experience in the region. It is also primarily focused on what is possible today rather than replicating past ecological conditions. This paradigm also accommodates future stressors – especially sea level rise, climate change, and development – into the target setting process. The Habitat Master Plan defines 10-year (2030) habitat protection and restoration targets and 30-year (2050) goals.