Bay Grasses in Classes Restores Tampa Bay Coastal Habitats
Terra Ceia- On Sept. 23, 2009, 240 students from Tampa Bay Watch's Bay Grasses in Classes Program (BGIC) planted 7,130 plugs at Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve from their own school nurseries and Port Manatee Fish Hatchery donor site. The participating schools were Learning Gate Community School (Hillsborough County), Shorecrest Prepatory School, Countryside High School, Seminole High School and Canterbury School of Florida (all from Pinellas County). Salt marsh planting projects are an environmental tool for restoring lost coastal habitat.
Tampa Bay Watch initiated BGIC in 1994, in this program, salt marsh wetland nurseries have been established at sixteen bay area schools, monitored and maintained by middle and high school students. Coordinated with school science teachers and their ecology and science clubs, the nurseries provide a source of native wetland plants for use in community habitat restoration projects. The program also provides students with valuable hands-on experience in habitat restoration activities while promoting science education and the value of maintaining a healthy environment.
The planting of spartina alterniflora, salt marsh or smooth cord grass protects and stabilizes low lying coastal lands and provides protection and food sources for estuarine and coastal fishery food chains of many species of fish and marine mammals. Salt marsh and other coastal habitat populations have declined more than 80% over the past 100 years -- due mostly to the dredging, construction and waste water discharges. This loss has damaged a crucial link in the bay's food chain for fish and wildlife resources, significantly impacting the bay's fisheries.
Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve is located in Manatee County just north of Palmetto and is cooperative project between Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Terra Ceia Aquatic and Buffer Preserves program of the FDEP. The SWFWMD-Surface Water Improvement and Management's projected restoration acreage is approximately 250 acres of estuarine and freshwater wetlands and about 450 acres of coastal uplands/enhanced wetlands. Please visit www.TampaBayWatch.org for more information on this collaborative project.
Tampa Bay Watch is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) stewardship program dedicated exclusively to the charitable and scientific purpose of protecting and restoring the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary encompassing over 400 square miles of open water and 2,300 square miles of highly- developed watershed. Tampa Bay Watch involves more than 10,000 youth and adult volunteers each year in hands on habitat restoration projects. For more information, visit www.tampabaywatch.org, or call 727-867-8166.
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