All seagrass beds are not created equal: the effects of seagrass bed architecture, location, and water quality on fish distribution and abundance in Tampa Bay
   Richard Matheson, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Comission

Abstract: The importance of seagrass beds as habitat for juvenile and adult fishes is well documented. Florida’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (CWCS) includes a long list of stresses that threaten submerged aquatic vegetation, but in a system such as Tampa Bay, some seagrass beds are more threatened than others, and the fish communities supported by different seagrass beds are not identical. For instance, the fish communities in seagrass beds near the mouth of the Bay are quite different from those in the upper Bay or those near the mouths of major tidal rivers. These factors, coupled with the fact that various Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) occur in seagrass beds in Tampa Bay, lead us to conclude that managers need to know the relative values of different seagrass beds for fish species in order to make sound management decisions. The objectives of this study are to 1) document patterns of spatiotemporal distribution and abundance of juvenile and small adult SGCN in seagrass beds in different parts of Tampa Bay based on analyses of 18 years of data collected by the Fisheries Independent Monitoring Program of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute; 2) determine changes in these patterns associated with freshwater inflow to Tampa Bay; and 3) increase the resolution of data on seagrass-associated SGCN with additional synoptic sampling that will include detailed characterizations of seagrass bed architecture, one additional water-quality parameter (turbidity), and a large-scale comparison of the influence of low-salinity tributaries on the distribution and abundance of seagrass-associated SGCN. Data and analyses produced by this study will assist managers in prioritizing management actions in seagrass beds, particularly in relation to their importance as habitats for SGCN.Data collecting beginning in 1989 consist of seine-collected fish samples and associated environmental data. These data will be analyzed, with emphasis on SGCN, to determine distribution and abundance by species and size class in relation to all spatial and temporal variables. In addition, the resolution of the existing data will be enhanced by additional synoptic sampling, incorporating more detailed habitat data, during the term of this study.

Award Matching Funds Total
$42,330.00 $42,330.00 $84,660.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2006 6/1/2007 6/30/2008

Location: Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas Counties