An expansive geographic area and the challenges posed by
protecting natural resources adjacent to the most populous county in the state means that fostering
partnerships with other agencies is crucial. The information collected from these agencies forms the
basis for the foundation for the ecosystem science program at Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve (BBAP).
There are three partner agencies with different types of seagrass monitoring programs in Biscayne Bay -
Miami-Dade County's Environmental Resource Management (DERM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
DERM's Benthic Habitat Monitoring Program design includes two levels of SAV monitoring. The first (Level
1 sampling) consists of sampling fixed locations throughout the bay, which helps identify trends in
vegetation cover. In September 1985, a series of fixed transects were positioned throughout the bay, and
initially, sampling was conducted quarterly at 12 sites. Two stations were discontinued in 1996, but
sampling is conducted annually during the month of June at the remaining 10 sites. Three other stations
were added in 1989 and incorporated into DERM's SAV monitoring program in Northeast Florida Bay, and as
of 2010, sampling is conducted at these sites on a semiannual basis in May and November. Sampling
parameters include, seagrass shoots, blade density, standing crop biomass by species and seagrass
Level 2 sampling was initiated in 1999. It consists of stratified random sampling similar to the
methods currently used in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The monitoring
network consists of 101 stratified random sites sampled annually to determine how much and what kinds of
vegetation covers an area. Frequency, abundance, and density of vegetation are calculated for each site.
This information is used by BBAP staff to remain aware of any shifts in species composition, irregular
water quality results that exceed standards or are of concern such as elevated levels of chlorophyll a,
and other signs of potential impacts to natural resources.
The Shallow Water Positioning System (SWaPS) is an innovative survey method developed by scientists from
NOAA's National Geodetic Survey to establish the precise position of objects and organisms in
shallow-water environments and provide a permanent, geocoded visual record of the bottom. SWaPS uses a
GPS receiver centered over a digital video or still camera suspended in a glass enclosure, providing a
clear view of the bay bottom and the GPS data allows the user to recover the same position again with a
high level of accuracy. Three major projects include SAV monitoring in Biscayne and Florida bays, damage
assessments such as seagrass scars and ship groundings and coral reef monitoring. The goal of the
Biscayne Bay SWaPS Project is to develop and implement a monitoring program to survey shallow, nearshore
benthic habitats which have been under-represented in other monitoring efforts due to the difficult boat
access to shallow areas less than three feet in depth.
The depth of a propeller scar helps managers understand the kind of restoration required to
restore seagrass damage.
The goal of the Florida Wildlife Research Institute's monitoring program is to provide information for
the assessment of seasonal variability of seagrass communities, and to establish a baseline to monitor
responses of seagrass communities to water management alterations associated with CERP activities. The
program documents the status and trends of seagrass distribution, abundance, reproductive, and
physiological status which are indicators of ecosystem health. Other goals include providing data on
photosynthetic rate and epiphyte loads, a measure of other organisms such as algae growing on seagrass
blades. Resource managers are able to use these data to address ecosystem-response issues on a real-time
basis and to weigh alternative restoration options. Various SAV species had been monitored at ten Florida
Bay locations since 1995. The geographic scope was expanded in 2005 to a total of 22 locations extending
into northern Biscayne Bay.