INTEGRATING SCIENCE IN TAMPA BAY, FL
Tampa Bay is recognized internationally for its remarkable progress towards recovery since it was pronounced “dead” in the late 1970s. Due to significant efforts by local governments, industries and private citizens throughout the watershed, water clarity in Tampa Bay is now equal to what it was in 1950, when population in the watershed was less than one-quarter of what it is today. Seagrass extent has increased by more than 8,000 acres since the mid-1980s, and fish and wildlife populations are increasing.
Central to this successful turn-around has been the Tampa Bay resource management community’s long-term commitment to development and implementation of strong science-based management strategies. Research institutions and agencies, including Eckerd College, the Florida Wildlife Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, University of South Florida, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, local and State governments, and private companies contribute significantly to the scientific basis of our understanding of Tampa Bay’s structure and ecological function. Resource management agencies, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s Agency on Bay Management, the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, depend upon this scientific basis to develop and implement regional adaptive management programs.
The importance of integrating science with management has become fully recognized by scientists and managers throughout the region, State and Nation. Scientific studies conducted in Tampa Bay over the past 10–15 years are increasingly diverse and complex, and resource management programs reflect our increased knowledge of geology, hydrology and hydrodynamics, ecology and restoration techniques. However, a synthesis of this research and its integration into resource management has not been prepared for Tampa Bay since the mid-1980s.
The need for an up-to-date synthesis of Tampa Bay science and management has resulted in the production of this document. The U.S. Geological Survey recently completed a 5-year Tampa Bay Integrated Science Study, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program updated the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Tampa Bay in 2006. These efforts build upon results of the many research and management studies and programs summarized here.