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Carbon Cycle & Ecosystems

Florida’s Big Bend seagrasses are one of Florida’s most important natural resources, supporting many economically important fish and shellfish species and providing ecological services worth $5 billion each year. However, degraded water quality threatens this valuable resource. Our project will enhance protection of Big Bend seagrasses by developing, testing, and transitioning user-friendly remote sensing tools to support the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program for nutrients in the Suwannee River Estuary. We will also support and assess the development of a numeric transparency criterion for Florida coastal waters by evaluating its effectiveness in the Big Bend region. This proposal addresses two Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) priority issues: 1) Identification and characterization of Gulf habitats and 2) Reduction in nutrient inputs to coastal ecosystems. It also specifically addresses several elements of the water quality and nutrient reduction plans for the GOMA Action Plan. Our project provides decision-making support to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) TMDL program, FDEP Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the FDEP water quality standards program. To support the Suwannee Estuary TMDL program, we will conduct a retrospective analysis of remotely-sensed optical water quality (RSOWQ) for the Suwannee Estuary using novel remote sensing algorithms and MODIS imagery to determine water column clarity, turbidity, chlorophyll-a concentration, and absorption of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM). RSOWQ products will be validated using ground-truth data collected since 2002 as well as data collected during this project. We will then establish quantitative relationships between Suwannee River nutrient loads and the calibrated RSOWQ dataset. To validate FDEP’s new transparency criterion, we will also relate RSOWQ time series data to annual changes in seagrass species composition, distribution, and abundance in the Suwannee Estuary and the larger Big Bend region since 2002. To assure continuity beyond the project lifespan, we will also develop and transition user-friendly MODIS-based tools which TMDL staff and other stakeholders can use for ongoing measurement of RSOWQ in the Suwannee Estuary and effects of watershed management actions.

Project PI: Paul Carlson/Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Email: paul.carlson@myfwc.com

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Started: Sep 27, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 04, 2011

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