Tidal creeks or tributaries are essential habitats in the Tampa Bay estuary and are important focal points for understanding watershed inputs that affect water quality. A fundamental goal of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program is to develop effective nutrient management strategies to support the ecological function of tidal tributaries. In partnership with Sarasota Bay NEP, Coastal & Heartland NEP, and local government and agency stakeholders, preliminary methods have been developed for assessing the health of tidal tributaries for fisheries based on levels of nutrient pollution. These assessments can support tracking of water quality management goals and can help refine restoration and management plans in priority tributaries, including those in need of hydrologic restoration that can support critical nursery habitats for sportfishes.
The tidal creeks dashboard provides an interface to view and download results for all tidal creeks in the identified population of over 300 creeks in southwest Florida.
Similar to the water quality report card, tidal creeks are assigned to categories within a management framework intended to serve as both a mechanism for evaluating data relative to the need for regulatory action, and to identify stewardship goals that, if properly pursued, preclude the need for any regulatory actions. Tidal creeks are assigned to one of five categories:
No Data: Data are unavailable for evaluation.
Monitor: Creek is at or below nitrogen concentrations that protect individual creek types within the larger population of creeks.
Caution: Creek nutrients showing signs of elevated nutrient concentrations that may increase risk of eutrophic condition.
Investigate: Creek nutrient concentrations above margin of safety to protect creek from potential impairment.
Prioritize: Creek nutrient concentrations have exceeded regulatory standard for associated freshwater portion of the tributary in at least one year indicating that actions may be needed to identify remediative measures to reduce nutrients in the creek.
Additional information about the scoring methods for the tidal creeks can be found in the dashboard and in the technical reports linked on the right. The tbeptools R package also includes functions for importing and analyzing tidal creek data. View the tidal creeks vignette for an overview of using the functions.