Using Net Wetland Loss, Current Wetland Condition, and Planned Future Watershed Condition for Wetland Conservation Planning and Prioritization, Tampa Bay Watershed, Florida
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The Tampa Bay Watershed is emblematic of moderately sized coastal watersheds in the US, particularly along the Gulf Coast: one-third of the wetlands were lost between the 1950s and 2007; numerous wetland remain, though many have been impacted; most of the remaining wetlands are hydrologically connected to downstream wetlands and waterbodies; there are future constraints to wetland conservation; and the spatial complexity of these factors make it difficult to coordinate watershed-scale wetland conservation planning. Therefore, the Tampa Bay Watershed can serve as a model system for studying ways to coordinate watershed-scale wetland conservation planning efforts. The development of a technical framework to support coordinated, watershed-scale wetland conservation planning requires that spatially explicit information be obtained, analyzed, and organized so customizable queries can be run by stakeholder agencies. The approach described herein does so by using readily available data to create a geodatabase organized into a set of screening layers that can be intersected hierarchically to identify areas where wetland preservation and restoration might be best used to accomplish overarching goals. The information and tools described herein were developed in conjunction with stakeholder input and are in the process of being integrated into a watershed master plan for freshwater wetland conservation.