12 Strategies to Protect Coastal Habitat & Marine Environments

Coastal Habitat Protection: Importance of Tampa Bay and its Mangroves



Being a resident of Tampa Bay, we have the honor of living by (or on) Florida’s largest open water subtropical estuary (Tampa Bay). Estuaries are considered one of the most productive unique ecosystems in the world, which is why the protection of this coastal habitat is so important globally. These unique bodies of water serve as natural filters for runoff,  nursery grounds for many species of fish, birds and other animals. Many migratory coastal birds use the estuary as a stop-over place during their migration. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay is also an urbanized estuary. 44% of its original inter tidal wetlands (mangrove swamps) have been destroyed due to development {1}.

One of the key players in an estuary system is the beloved mighty mangrove. When I was visiting the Biscayne National Park last spring break, a park ranger explained it best, “Mangroves are the defensive line for our shores and our marine life”. Their sturdy root system protects our shoreline from erosion, wind, storms and waves by taking the grunt of the force as buffers. Mangroves are an important physical habitat; a breeding ground and nursery for most vertebrates and invertebrates that stay in Tampa Bay or move out into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these species have significant sport and commercial fishing value in our local economy. Mangroves purify the water by absorbing impurities and harmful heavy metals and also help us to breathe cleaner air, by absorbing pollutants within the air. A patch of mangroves can absorb as much as 10 times the carbon of a similarly sized patch of terrestrial forest {2}. Mangrove forests play a central role in transferring organic matter and energy from the land to the water, coming from the fallen leaves and branches. Bacteria breaks the matter down, releasing useful nutrients into the water that can then be used by the marine animals. This tree/shrub does so much for our environment and our economy. Globally, protecting these forests can account for as much as 30 percent of the solution to climate change thanks to their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide {3}. Residents here in Tampa Bay are fortunate enough to have an ecosystem that can naturally remove so much CO2 from the air. There are not many places in the world that have something this unique, productive and beneficial within their natural environment. Establishment of marine and coastal protected areas are critical for (especially) the mangroves and all elements within an estuary. Protecting these natural resources benefits our natural environment, the animals within and our community.

{1} Lewis, R. I. (1977). Impact of Dredging on Tampa Bay. Arlington, VA: The Coastal Society .

{2} USDA Forest Service, P. S. (2011, April 5). Science Daily . Retrieved from Science Daily :https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110404173247.htm 

{3} Kolb, A. (2016, July 25). Conservation International (.org). Retrieved from Conservation International (.org): https://blog.conservation.org/2016/07/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-mangroves-but-never-thought-to-ask/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_MPb2q-r1gIVgQOGCh3VHAcPEAAYASAAEgLkSvD_BwE 




Allen, H. (2018). Coastal Habitat Protection: Importance of Tampa Bay and its Mangroves. Retrieved from http://www.bluecommunity.info/view/blog/5ac051110cf26bc6ab8f4016


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