Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

USGS Tampa Bay Pilot Study

January 1, 2007

Many of the nation's estuaries have been environmentally stressed since the turn of the 20th century and will continue to be impacted in the future. Tampa Bay, one the Gulf of Mexico's largest estuaries, exemplifies the threats that our estuaries face (EPA Report 2001, Tampa Bay Estuary Program-Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (TBEP-CCMP)). More than 2 million people live in the Tampa Bay watershed, and the population constitutes to grow. Demand for freshwater resources, conversion of undeveloped areas to resident and industrial uses, increases in storm-water runoff, and increased air pollution from urban and industrial sources are some of the known human activities that impact Tampa Bay. Beginning on 2001, additional anthropogenic modifications began in Tampa Bat including construction of an underwater gas pipeline and a desalinization plant, expansion of existing ports, and increased freshwater withdrawal from three major tributaries to the bay.

In January of 2001, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and its partners identifies a critical need for participation from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in providing multidisciplinary expertise and a regional-scale, integrated science approach to address complex scientific research issue and critical scientific information gaps that are necessary for continued restoration and preservation of Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay stakeholders identified several critical science gaps for which USGS expertise was needed (Yates et al. 2001). These critical science gaps fall under four topical categories (or system components): 1) water and sediment quality, 2) hydrodynamics, 3) geology and geomorphology, and 4) ecosystem structure and function. Scientists and resource managers participating in Tampa Bay studies recognize that it is no longer sufficient to simply examine each of these estuarine system components individually, Rather, the interrelation among system components must be understood to develop conceptual and predictive modeling tools for effective ecosystem adaptive management. As a multidisciplinary organization, the USGS possesses the capability of developing and coordinating an integrated science strategy for estuarine research founded on partnerships and collaborative efforts, multidisciplinary teams of scientists, and integrated field work, data analysis and interpretation, and product development. The primary role of the USGS in Tamps Bay research was defined with our partners based upon this capability to address estuarine issues using an integrated science approach with a regional perspective and within a national context to complement the numerous ongoing scien efforts by state and local agencies that address local issues within Tamp Bay. Six primary components of the USGS Tamp Bay Study address critical gaps within each of the the four estuarine system components and focus on:

1.) Examining how natural and man-made
physical changes affect ecosystem health
through mapping and modeling.

2.) Identifying sources and quality of
groundwater, surface water, and
sediment,

3.) Identifying sources and quality of
groundwater, surface water, and
sediment,

4.) Assessing the natural and man-made
changes affecting wetland health and
restoration,

5.) Identifying and measuring the impact of
urbanization on seafloor habitats,

Providing a web-based digital
information management system of information for scientists and the public,
including a system that supports the work
of those officials who must make
decisions that affect the state of the bay.

The Tampa Bay Study is in its sixth year and will
continue through September 2007. This paper
presents a non-inclusive summary of key findings
associated with the six primary project
components listed above. Component 4 (above) is
described in detail in the following chapter 13.
More information on the Tampa Bay Study is
available from our on-line digital information
system for the Tampa Bay Study at
http://gulfsci.usgs.gov.