Satellite image of Tampa Bay indicating study sites near the Alafia River and Terra Ceia area. Colors are near natural; healthy plants are green, agricultural fields are pink or beige.
|Coastal bays and estuaries are well known for their intrinsic recreational and economic value, yet these ecosystems are also among our most troubled natural environments.
Urban development, agriculture and shipping are just a few examples that can cause a wide range of deleterious change in the coastal zone. These human-induced alterations, however, occur simultaneously to cycles of natural variability (for example, climate change). To effectively manage coastal ecosystems one needs to be able to distinguish between man-made and natural causes of change.
The U.S. Geological Survey in 2001 initiated a broad program of scientific study in Tampa Bay (see map) to address this theme.
The Tampa Bay Estuary Project is based on a holistic integration of the fields of geology, biology, hydrology and geochemistry to examine natural and human-induced change. This study presents some initial geochemical and hydrological observations made during a prolonged period of drought in Tampa Bay.
These investigations are directly coupled to:
- geologic framework studies, which provide a more robust interpretation of the underlying stratigraphy;
- wetland studies, which allow us to examine, for example, the hydrologic control on wetland structure; and
- paleo-eutrophication studies that can place our modern interpretations into an historic context.
We need to continue to develop a better understanding of external/internal influences on the observed responses, to be able to critically evaluate long-term trends in ecosystem health