, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 345-357

First online:

Florida Bay: A history of recent ecological changes

  • James W. FourqureanAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences and Southeast Environmental Research Program, Florida International University Email author 
  • , Michael B. RobbleeAffiliated withFlorida Caribbean Science Center United States Geological Survey-Biological Resources Division, Florida International University

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Florida Bay is a unique subtropical estuary at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. Recent ecological changes (seagrass die-off, algal blooms, increased turbidity) to the Florida Bay ecosystem have focused the attention of the public, commercial interests, scientists, and resource managers on the factors influencing the structure and function of Florida Bay. Restoring Florida Bay to some historic condition is the goal of resource managers, but what is not clear is what an anthropogenically-unaltered Florida Bay would look like. While there is general consensus that human activities have contributed to the changes occurring in the Florida Bay ecosystem, a high degree of natural system variability has made elucidation of the links between human activity and Florida Bay dynamics difficult. Paleoecological analyses, examination of long-term datasets, and directed measurements of aspects of the ecology of Florida Bay all contribute to our understanding of the behavior of the bay, and allow quantification of the magnitude of the recent ecological changes with respect to historical variability of the system.