This conservation asset was not assessed for vulnerability
Bays are found along the coast of Florida, connecting to either the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast or the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast. Tampa Bay is the largest estuary in Florida, other bays include Pensacola Bay, Apalachicola Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay.
Bays receive freshwater inflow from rivers, streams and wetlands.
Inlets are natural or man-made cuts in the shoreline that link coastal and inland water bodies. This habitat is defined as the subtidal area within a two-kilometer radius of the central part (i.e., throat) of the Inlet. Both bays and inlets tend to be hot spots of biodiversity and are critical in the recruitment of many fish and invertebrate species. They provide habitat for the settling larvae from coastal areas and provide an emigration conduit for outgoing juveniles. They also are essential spawning habitat for several marine fishes.
Bivalve Reefs occur in both intertidal and subtidal zones to depths of 40 feet (12 m). In Florida the most extensive examples of this habitat, dominated by oysters, are restricted to estuarine environments where salinity concentrations range from 15 to 30 parts per thousand. Events or processes that alter freshwater deliveries to estuaries are detrimental to this habitat. Bivalve reefs are a diverse ecological community that provides nursery grounds, refugia, and foraging areas to a wide variety of wildlife species.
Tidal flats are non-vegetated areas of sand or mud protected from wave action and composed primarily of mud transported by tidal channels. An important characteristic of the tidal flat environment is its alternating tidal cycle of submergence and exposure to the atmosphere.
The open ocean (pelagic) environment includes the waters lying over the continental shelf (neritic zone) and waters beyond the continental shelf. The Pelagic community lives in the water column above the seafloor and below the surface. This community does not depend on the seabed, although its members may visit it occasionally. Maximum depths vary from approximately 30 feet (9 m) in the Gulf of Mexico to more than 1,000 feet (304 m) off of the Florida Keys and southeast Florida.
This conservation asset includes Bays, Inlets, Bivalve Reefs, Exposed Limestone, Tidal Flat, and Open Ocean.
Changes in the coastal currents due to climate change are likely to have wide-ranging consequences for population dynamics and secondary productivity of reefs and associated estuary, bay and lagoon ecosystems.
Increasing water temperatures along with changes in nutrient inputs will continue to favor harmful algal blooms.
Increased water temperatures will lead to an increase in the abundance and diversity of invasive species, as well as range expansion northward of species limited by winter temperatures.
Increased precipitation will lead to increased runoff, impacting water quality by increasing nutrients, pollutants, and turbidity.
Vegetation and species within bays and lagoons will be impacted as water gets deeper due to sea level rise, water temperature increases and reduces dissolved oxygen concentrations, and the timing and intensity of precipitation becomes more variable, affecting the spatial and temporal patterns of salinity and dissolved oxygen.
Sea level rise is already reducing the intertidal area of mud flats.
Benthic communities could be lost due to a combination of nutrient runoff and increased temperatures that decrease dissolved oxygen levels below a threshold.
More information about general climate impacts to habitats in Florida.
Commercially important pelagic fish species, such as Atlantic bluefin, will be impacted by warming ocean temperatures due to its low adult and larval thermal thresholds and restricted spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtles also have specific thermal requirements, therefore, shifts in ocean temperatures will likely result in distribution shifts. The loss or degradation of tidal (mud)flats would impact many species of shorebirds and wading birds that rely on these areas as foraging habitat.
More information about general climate impacts to species in Florida.