Minimize adverse environmental impacts from land use while restoring the ecosystem services.
Changes in the land use of watersheds and adjacent coastal lands and waters has resulted in significant
environmental changes within Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (RBNERR). Urban development and
agricultural land use within RBNERR's watersheds, and their associated impacts on freshwater inflows to the
Rookery Bay and Ten Thousand Islands estuaries, remain one of the most significant threats to the ecological
integrity of RBNERR. These impacts include alterations to the volume and timing of freshwater with a resulting
negative influence on changes in natural salinity within the estuary, and degradation of water quality as land
use upstream contributes pollutants from leaching of septic tanks and the use of herbicides, fertilizers and
Coastal development along Collier County's shoreline still occurs, although not as prevalent today as in
previous years due to increased regulatory protection for coastal wetlands. Much of this anticipated change in
land use is related to recent trends in redevelopment within the cities of Naples and Marco Island.
Collier County has experienced immense population growth over the last 25 years. Between 1980 and 1998, the
County's population increased from 85,971 to 210,100, which is an increase of 144%. Projections by the Collier
County government anticipate continued growth in the next five to ten years along the State Road 951 corridor
(Collier Boulevard) and south of U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail). These areas are designated as urban and directly adjoin
the eastern and northern boundaries of RBNERR.
Development of adjacent coastal lands can also threaten the ecological integrity of RBNERR. Potential coastal
development on lands adjacent to RBNERR over the next ten years includes marinas, docks and single or
multi-family housing with the potential for negative impacts to water quality, loss of coastal wetlands habitat
and associated threats to wildlife including protected species such as the West Indian manatee. Development on
barrier islands can result in accelerated erosion processes due to "hardening" of shorelines. Shoreline hardening
interrupts the exchange of sand from the beach to off-shore deposits that resupplies sand.
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