Michael Middlebrooks is an associate professor of biology at The University of Tampa. He was recently awarded a grant by the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund to study how seagrasses in Tampa Bay are being replaced by macroalgae called Caulerpa. We spoke about seagrasses and his research on WMNF’s Tuesday Café.
In 2018 the executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program told St. Pete City Council that breaches should be made in the causeways over Tampa Bay to improve water flow and conditions for seagrasses. But the breaches never happened.
Listen to the full show here:
“Tampa Bay was — and to some extent still is — a really big success story in the world of seagrass.
“Worldwide, seagrass is declining almost everywhere and at tremendous levels. I think the most recent estimate I read worldwide was about 7% per year or dropping off.
“It’s rates similar to the decline we’re seeing in coral reefs and rainforests. Places like that get a lot of attention. But we’re seeing similar rates of decline.
“Tampa Bay had some pretty significant declines as well from the 1950s. Estimates were about 40,000 acres, I think. And then by the early 80’s it had declined to a lot less than that.
“There are a lot of factors involved in that but the success in Tampa Bay came from a lot of people working together — nonprofit organizations, local governments and citizens working to improve, basically, the water quality in Tampa Bay.
“There were a lot of efforts that went into that. So there was seagrass restoration. The biggest improvement, in my opinion, came from managing water quality. Wastewater treatment and things like that.
“By improving the water quality it allowed the seagrass to return and that’s made a huge difference. By 2014 to 2015, seagrass had surpassed the historical levels in the 1950s that had been recorded. So, it had not only grown back to the previous levels but was further increased.
“That’s really good news at a time when that wasn’t happening anywhere else. So, there’s a lot of success in Tampa [Bay].
“In the past couple of years, we’ve seen declines again in seagrass. We’re still above the very low levels. And we still think we are a good model for what can be done to improve seagrass quality. But we are starting to see declines in that.
“So that is concerning. We certainly don’t want to get back to those levels in the 70s and ’80s where there was very low seagrass cover, high amounts of other algae growing in Tampa Bay and very low water quality.”-Michael Middlebrooks on WMNF
Watch the interview with UT professor Michael Middlebrooks:
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WMNF’s Tuesday Café
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