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Environmental impacts on the southern Florida coastal waters: A history of change in Florida Bay

October 10, 1998

Analyses of four cores located in the northern transitional, eastern, and central portions of Florida Bay reveal historical patterns of change in salinity and seagrass distribution. Salinity and the distribution of seagrass beds are two critical issues for the restoration of Florida Bay. The distribution of benthic fauna in Bob Allen 6A and Russell Bank 19B cores illustrates changes in environmental parameters prior to 1900. Natural fluctuations occur in salinity, but the amplitude of those fluctuations was limited to a 15–20% shift about the mean. Subtle changes occur in the benthic fauna around 1910, but beginning around 1940, the pattern of salinity fluctuation departs substantially from the pre-1900 pattern. Post-1940, the salinity oscillates 40–60% about the mean. This pattern is seen in all indicators measured. Around 1970, a significant but short term decline occurred in salinity. The Taylor Creek T24 core from the northern transitional zone reflects changes in freshwater flow that have occurred during this century. The upper portion of the core records a significant increase in salinity, with a slight decrease occurring in recent years. The Pass Key 37 core represents an area of very high sedimentation rates; an increase in salinity occurs in the upper portion of the core. Natural fluctuations in seagrass distribution are inferred from the shifts in relative abundance of epiphytal species preserved in the cores. All four cores show an increase in epiphytes and therefore in seagrass coverage during this century. An increase also occurs in epiphytal species that can dwell on either Thalassia or macro-algal mats associated with Thalassia beds. These data suggest an increase in algal-mats has occurred during this century. The Bob Allen 6A core records an extensive period during the 1800's of little to no vegetative cover of the substrate based on the near absence of epiphytic species in that segment of the core. Following this period, the epiphytal species increase rapidly in abundance, implying that vegetation may have the ability to disseminate rapidly.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Environmental impacts on the southern Florida coastal waters: A history of change in Florida Bay
DOI
Authors G. Lynn Wingard, S. E. Ishman, C. W. Holmes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Series Number
Index ID 70128629
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program