Climate change: Across Tampa Bay, environmental organizations mobilize around sea level rise
It's a balmy day under a thick cover of wetland overgrowth just a few hundred feet away from half million dollar homes at Feather Sound on the western shore of Old Tampa Bay. Navigating narrow canals, contractors are carving away a dense, crisscrossing network of decades-old mosquito ditches. In their place, grades will be leveled and waterways opened up to the Bay, in the hopes of reconstructing a teeming tidal wetland that seamlessly transitions from shallow sea grasses to salt barrens and mangroves through to coastal uplands.
Equal parts art and science, the Feather Sound Tidal Wetland Restoration Project is one example of the reverse engineering efforts underway across Tampa Bay's estuarine shores, where ditches, seawalls and other manmade coastal infrastructure are being dismantled or retrofitted, site by site. Since 1988, nearly 100 projects have been completed across Tampa Bay, restoring nearly 4,000 acres of habitat through efforts ranging from small interventions along urban creeks to large-scale, wetland-wide projects.
These efforts aim both to restore sensitive regional habitats -- gradually recovering after several decades of growth- and pollution-induced decline -- and to clean up Tampa Bay's waters through the filtering effects of native flora and fauna.
As in other efforts, the Feather Sound project is intensely collaborative. Here, the Southwest Florida Water Management District leads 10 other local, state and national partners, whose contributions span scientific research through to the work of carefully reconstructing habitats.