Currently, mangroves dominate the tidal wetlands of Tampa Bay, Florida, but an examination of historic navigation charts revealed dominance of tidal marshes with a mangrove fringe in the 1870s. This study's objective was to conduct a new assessment of wetland change in Tampa Bay by digitizing nineteenth century topographic and public land surveys and comparing these to modern coastal features at four locations. We differentiate between wetland loss, wetland gain through marine transgression, and a wetland conversion from marsh to mangrove. Wetland loss was greatest at study sites to the east and north. Expansion of the intertidal zone through marine transgression, across adjacent low-lying land, was documented primarily near the mouth of the bay. Generally, the bay-wide marsh-to-mangrove ratio reversed from 86:14 to 25:75 in 125 years. Conversion of marsh to mangrove wetlands averaged 72 % at the four sites, ranging from 52 % at Old Tampa Bay to 95 % at Feather Sound. In addition to latitudinal influences, intact wetlands and areas with greater freshwater influence exhibited a lower rate of marsh-to-mangrove conversion. Two sources for nineteenth century coastal landscape were in close agreement, providing an unprecedented view of historic conditions in Tampa Bay.
Additional publication details
Tampa Bay coastal wetlands: nineteenth to twentieth century tidal marsh-to-mangrove conversion