Current condition: Poor and declining. According to the best available GIS information at this time, 2,419,458 acres (979,120 ha) of seagrass beds (a subtype of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation habitat) exist.
Seagrass is defined as any combination of seagrasses, oligohaline grasses, attached macroalgae and drift algae that covers 10 to 100 percent of a substrate. This section only addresses seagrasses. Seagrasses are marine flowering plants adapted to grow and reproduce in the underwater environment. Florida estuaries and nearshore coastal waters contain the nation's largest seagrass resources (more than two-million acres), as well as its two most extensive, contiguous seagrass beds (i.e., Florida Bay and the Big Bend region).
Factors that affect the establishment and growth of seagrass include light availability, water temperature, salinity, sediment composition, nutrient levels, wave energy, and tidal range. Seagrass most often occurs in areas of low to moderate current velocities where the water is clear; thereby allowing sunlight to penetrate to the leaf blades. Seagrass communities are highly productive, faunally rich, and ecologically important systems. Hundreds to thousands of species of flora and fauna may inhabit seagrass habitats utilizing food, substrate, and shelter provided by the plants. Seagrasses also stabilize sediments and help maintain water clarity.
Download the Submerged Aquatic Vegetation chapter from the Action Plan.
Visit the Internet Mapping Service (IMS) website to explore detailed, interactive maps of all FWLI habitat categories.
What is being done to conserve Seagrass?
To protect and manage seagrass resources in Florida, an official, state-sponsored program led by Paul Carlson with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute was established. The Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring (SIMM) project aims to produce an annual report documenting seagrass cover and species composition changes at monitoring stations located throughout the state as well as a comprehensive report every six years, combining site-intensive monitoring data and trends with statewide seagrass cover estimates and maps showing seagrass gains and losses.
The data are provided by multiple organizations, agencies and universities. The success and usefulness of the SIMM report relies on the contributions of many seagrass scientists willing to share information about their research.
Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative (FWLI) is using the results from Carlson's SIMM report to inform the seagrass habitat section of their Statewide Habitat Reporting System, a report that helps fulfill one of the eight federally required elements of our State Wildlife Action Plan. Both of these reports will help inform decisions on where further research, conservation, and monitoring needs to occur.
By fulfilling all eight of the required elements, Florida becomes eligible to receive State Wildlife Grant funds each year.
Paul Carlson and his team have been working hard to finish collating statewide information from multiple seagrass scientists and currently have a final draft completed. The finalized first edition of the SIMM report will be published shortly.
For more information, please contact the FWLI Seagrass lead, Dan OMalley.
View Seagrass Project Posters
Additional current and recent seagrass projects conducted by a variety of conservation partners include:
What wildlife species will benefit?