Environmental Management

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 401–415 | Cite as

Potential Impacts and Management Implications of Climate Change on Tampa Bay Estuary Critical Coastal Habitats

  • Edward T. Sherwood
  • Holly S. Greening


The Tampa Bay estuary is a unique and valued ecosystem that currently thrives between subtropical and temperate climates along Florida’s west-central coast. The watershed is considered urbanized (42 % lands developed); however, a suite of critical coastal habitats still persists. Current management efforts are focused toward restoring the historic balance of these habitat types to a benchmark 1950s period. We have modeled the anticipated changes to a suite of habitats within the Tampa Bay estuary using the sea level affecting marshes model under various sea level rise (SLR) scenarios. Modeled changes to the distribution and coverage of mangrove habitats within the estuary are expected to dominate the overall proportions of future critical coastal habitats. Modeled losses in salt marsh, salt barren, and coastal freshwater wetlands by 2100 will significantly affect the progress achieved in “Restoring the Balance” of these habitat types over recent periods. Future land management and acquisition priorities within the Tampa Bay estuary should consider the impending effects of both continued urbanization within the watershed and climate change. This requires the recognition that: (1) the Tampa Bay estuary is trending towards a mangrove-dominated system; (2) the current management paradigm of “Restoring the Balance” may no longer provide realistic, attainable goals; (3) restoration that creates habitat mosaics will prove more resilient in the future; and (4) establishing subtidal and upslope “refugia” may be a future strategy in this urbanized estuary to allow sensitive habitat types (e.g., seagrass and salt barren) to persist under anticipated climate change and SLR impacts.


Tampa Bay Sea level rise Habitats 



The authors would like to thank all Tampa Bay Estuary Program partners and collaborators for their continued efforts in the recovery of Tampa Bay. The progress achieved in restoring the Tampa Bay ecosystem over the last 30+ years would not be possible without their willingness to adapt and implement innovative management actions in response to the ever evolving challenges threatening Tampa Bay. We also thank 3 anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments in improving this paper. This project was partially funded through EPA Section 320 Grant Funds and local government (Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas Counties; the Cities of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa; and the Southwest Florida Water Management District) contributions to the TBEP’s operating budget.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tampa Bay Estuary ProgramSt. PetersburgUSA

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