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Water-Related News

Report: Sarasota Bay ecosystem gets clean bill of health

Is water quality the only indicator of a healthy ecosystem? Not quite.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program recently published its 2023 Ecosystem Health Report Card, which showed that all bays in the area are in good standing with their ecosystem health. The chart also shows a larger trend of the bays, from a period of stability to a decline, back to now a recovery.

Dave Tomasko, executive director for SBEP, said that water quality is one factor in determining ecosystem health, but there's more to consider.

“People use the words water quality and ecosystem health like they’re the same thing, and they’re not,” Tomasko said.

Water quality is like dipping a bottle into the bay and looking at what's in it, he said. But looking at the full picture requires looking at data about nitrogen, chlorophyll, seagrasses and macroalgae.

Macroalgae are the large seaweeds that commonly grow on the bottom of the bay or found floating. Those plants are valuable food sources for animals like manatees and sea turtles.

But when macroalgae blooms occur, it decreases the amount of oxygen in the water which is harmful for marine life.

“If we don’t collect this information, we’re going to miss one of the big problems,” Tomasko said.

Tomasko said the SBEP came up with the idea for the Ecosystem Health Report Card around 2021, and were able to use historical data to create the chart going back to 2006.

report card