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SBEP Provides Update on Tidal Creek Study

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If estuaries are where salt water and fresh water mix, tidal creeks draining to those estuaries are the place where this mixing first occurs. And since daily tides dictate exactly where this mixing occurs, “tidal creeks” are actually not separate, static entities, but rather dynamic swaths of water at the lower reaches of coastal tributaries below the freshwater upstream.

Tidal Creek MapDespite a tendency toward lower dissolved oxygen and higher chlorophyll levels, tidal creeks are still extremely productive systems. These unique conditions are exploited by many important fish species as refuge from predators and nursery habitats. This phenomenon, among other considerations, has driven local scientists to argue that neither the water quality standards established for Florida’s freshwater bodies, nor those established for estuaries and coastal waters, are appropriate for tidal creeks.

So, what water quality parameters are appropriate for tidal creeks? The SBEP – along with TBEP, CHNEP, six county partners and regional scientists – embarked on a study of water quality, fish population dynamics and habitat in southwest Florida tidal creeks to answer that question. The results of the study will help determine protective water quality standards and a science-based framework for management of these important ecosystems.

Tidal Creek StudyThe results of the study have just been completed, and recommendations sent to state and federal regulators for comment. A final report will be released in March, 2016. To learn more, or to view a copy of the draft report, please contact SBEP.

Jay Leverone, PhD, the staff scientist for SBEP, will make a presentation about the Tidal Creek Study at the upcoming Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation meeting in Portland. The study engages SBEP, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, and six Florida counties.