Beck, Marcus W.; Sherwood, Edward T.; Henkel, Jessica Renee; Dorans, Kirsten; Ireland, Kathryn; Varela, Patricia. 2019. Assessment of the Cumulative Effects of Restoration Activities on Water Quality in Tampa Bay, Florida. Estuaries and Coasts. (Abstract) (Online version)
Habitat and water quality restoration projects are commonly used to enhance coastal resources or mitigate the negative impacts of water quality stressors. Significant resources have been expended for restoration projects, yet much less attention has focused on evaluating broad regional outcomes beyond site-specific assessments. This study presents an empirical framework to evaluate multiple datasets in the Tampa Bay area (Florida, USA) to identify (1) the types of restoration projects that have produced the greatest improvements in water quality and (2) time frames over which different projects may produce water quality benefits. Information on the location and date of completion of 887 restoration projects from 1971 to 2017 were spatially and temporally matched with water quality records at each of the 45 long-term monitoring stations in Tampa Bay. The underlying assumption was that the developed framework could identify differences in water quality changes between types of restoration projects based on aggregate estimates of chlorophyll-a concentrations before and after the completion of one to many projects. Water infrastructure projects to control point source nutrient loading into the Bay were associated with the highest likelihood of chlorophyll-a reduction, particularly for projects occurring prior to 1995. Habitat restoration projects were also associated with reductions in chlorophyll-a, although the likelihood of reductions from the cumulative effects of these projects were less than those from infrastructure improvements alone. The framework is sufficiently flexible for application to different spatiotemporal contexts and could be used to develop reasonable expectations for implementation of future water quality restoration activities throughout the Gulf of Mexico.