Southern Coastal SystemsPhoto of the Southern Coastal System by John Gretchel

The Southern Coastal System region is a contiguous network of coastal wetlands and estuaries that wraps around the southern end of the Florida peninsula from Biscayne Bay on the southeastern coast to the Ten Thousand Islands area on the upper southwest coast, and includes Florida Bay and the Lower Southwest Coast. This region is one of the most ecologically and economically important regions in the state of Florida. Over the past century, water management practices and agriculture/urban development have disrupted the availability, timing and distribution of fresh water to the Southern Coastal System, which has significantly altered the structure and function of these ecosystems. The objective of restoration is to restore and sustain the highly productive estuaries and adjacent coastal wetlands by restoring freshwater flows to the extent practical. Reestablishing more natural flows will restore estuarine salinity conditions, resulting in improved habitat for fish and wildlife resources. (Photo of Southern Coastal Systems by John Gretchel used with permission)

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 Map showing long view and detail view of the Southern Coastal areas.

Currently, the region suffers from lack of freshwater flows due to water control structures and limited water budgets. This, coupled with sea level rise, causes high salinities and peat collapse. In a restored system, increases in flow of freshwater dilutes seawater so that salinity ranges from 5 to 35. This supports the growth of mangroves, oyster reefs, and seagrasses that serve as nursery and feeding areas for fish and shellfish. These habitats allow other species to flourish, such as osprey, wading birds, and crocodiles.


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