Habitat Master Plan 

The habitats of Tampa Bay, such as seagrasses, mangroves, salt marshes, and wet prairies, provide food, shelter, and other important services that support numerous birds, fish, mammals, and invertebrates. Prior to the 1980s, significant damage was done to these natural habitats during development activities. To continue the improvements that have occurred since that time, the Habitat Master Plan  (2020 Update) includes a target of restoring 3,150 acres of wetlands and uplands in the next decade. This includes:

  • 50 acres of oyster reefs
  • 1,000 acres of tidal wetlands, such as salt marshes, salt barrens, and mangroves
  • 1,500 acres of freshwater wetlands, including t freshwater marshes, wet prairies, and cypress forests
  • 600 acres of uplands, including coastal hammocks and pine flatwoods
The cover of the 2020 Habitat Master Plan Update document.

Target Setting Approach

The target setting approach used in this update, termed the “Maximizing the Potential” approach, is informed by past changes, as determined through a three-decade habitat change analysis, and over forty years of habitat restoration experience in the region. It is also primarily focused on what is possible today rather than replicating past ecological conditions. The new paradigm also accommodates future stressors – especially sea level rise, climate change, and development – into the target setting process. The Habitat Master Plan defines 10-year (2030) habitat protection and restoration targets and 30-year (2050) goals. Furthermore, this update maps habitat protection and restoration opportunity areas where these targets and goals can be attained, and where the 2017 CCMP habitat protection and restoration strategy can be implemented over the planning horizon. However, the identified habitat protection and restoration areas will change over time, and it is appropriate that they be revised on a 10-year recurring cycle. The targets and goals used the identification and mapping of a “coastal stratum” which extends from the existing mean low water line to the approximate 5-foot contour. The coastal stratum is projected to directly experience the effects of sea level rise by 2050, and is the primary focus area for coastal habitat protection and restoration activities, both in the near-term 10-year, and the extended 30-year, planning horizons.

CLICK ON THE MAP to view the individual opportunity assessment and restoration potential for each boundary, including the City of Tampa, City of St. Petersburg, City of Clearwater, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, Pasco County and the entire watershed. CLICK HERE to view overall progress towards habitat restoration targets and goals. CLICK HERE to visit the land use change dashboard.

Multiple layers of mapping data were combined to create estimates of habitat restoration opportunities for different habitats within the Tampa Bay watershed:

Restorable

A recent aerial assessment of habitat & developed areas was used to Identify ‘softer’ (relatively undeveloped) areas that would be easier to restore.

Reservation Space

Areas below the 5’ contour are identified as under greater pressures due to sea level rise impacts over the next several decades.

Publicly-Owned Lands

Habitat restoration conducted on existing public parcels & conservation easements are considered to generally be more effective due to costs, control, security and predictability.

Acquisition Potential

Parcels that have been identified within a state or local plan or otherwise by partners for acquisition are also considered for higher potential of restoration.

Soil Suitability

Mesic and hydric soils were targeted for wetland restoration, while xeric soils were identified with upland restoration potential.

Salinity Isohaline

Areas in tributaries or on the coast with long-term salinities less than 18 psu (about ½ full salt water) were targeted for black needlerush marsh restoration.

Restoration Best Management Practices Manual

As part of the Habitat Master Plan (2020 Update), information on lessons learned and habitat restoration best practices has been prepared in the Tampa Bay Habitat Restoration: Best Management Practices Manual. The manual describes habitat restoration techniques that have been successfully utilized over the past four decades to restore coastal ecosystems, specifically in Tampa Bay. This guidance manual also recommends approaches to effectively implement future habitat restoration projects in Tampa Bay, by integrating lessons-learned from over one hundred projects within the watershed. Finally, this manual includes recommendations for monitoring protocols and emerging technologies to plan future coastal habitat restoration efforts that need to consider the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

A "before" shot of a section of Safety Harbor prior to its restoration.
Volunteers plant native vegetation in an effort to restore habitat at Safety Harbor in 2018.
A picture of habitat growth at Safety Harbor in 2018