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Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve- Management and Protection of Seagrasses

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Seagrass beds are one of the most productive habitats found in the world. The rich biodiversity that makes up seagrass habitat plays a critical ecological and environmental role to Florida's coastal communities. Seagrasses improve water clarity by stabilizing bottom sediments and absorbing nutrients from the water column. They reduce coastal erosion by helping to diffuse wave energy during storm events. Economically, seagrass beds are of critical importance to Florida's commercial and recreational fisheries. Florida's juvenile fish and invertebrates (redfish, shrimp, bay scallops, sea trout and stone crabs) depend on these rich nurseries for food and protection. Manatees, wading birds, and sea turtles also utilize these areas for foraging.

Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves (BBSAP) is the second largest contiguous area of seagrass habitat in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Seagrass monitoring is an integral part of mapping the total acreage of Florida's seagrasses. According to FWC’s Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring (SIMM) report for the State of Florida, there are approximately 240,000 acres of seagrass coverage in the Big Bend region and 2.5 million acres in Florida’s coastal waters. The five species of seagrass found in BBSAP include shoal grass, manatee grass, turtle grass, widgeon grass, and star grass. One of the major threats to seagrasses in the state is from prop scarring. Repetitive scouring of prop scars prevents recolonization of new grass and often requires restoration. Another threat to seagrass is nutrient loading from rivers which can decrease water clarity and shade out sunlight that grasses need for photosynthesis. Natural threats, like hurricanes, can cause fragmentation of seagrass beds that can take years to heal.

BBSAP seeks to manage seagrass communities through research and monitoring, education and outreach efforts, continued resource management, and collaborative efforts with other state agencies to effectively protect and maintain this habitat throughout BBSAP.

Last Modified:
February 13, 2024 - 4:28pm

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