Common Sea Fans (<em>Gorgonia ventilina</em>) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventilina) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Photo: Chantal Collier

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Photo: Joe Marino

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Southeast Florida Reef News

Numeric Nutrient Criteria Development Underway for Florida's Estuaries and Coastal Waters

By Troy Craig
Coral Reef Conservation Program Assistant

Caption: One of many slides presented during the various Power Point presentations at the workshop. <br/>Slide: Ken Banks, Ph.D.
Caption: One of many slides presented during the various Power Point presentations at the workshop.
Slide: Ken Banks, Ph.D.
On March 2 & 3, 2010, FDEP CRCP  and other local resource managers, scientists and stakeholders participated in public workshops to discuss technical issues related to the development of numeric nutrient criteria for estuaries and coastal waters in Florida Bay, the Florida Keys, Biscayne Bay, and off the mainland southeast Florida coast. The goal of the workshop was to gather information on individual marine systems that will serve to support statewide criteria development and provide a solid foundation to establish nutrient criteria appropriate for each specific regional area. This initial effort consisted of identifying currently available data and soliciting local area expertise.

As one in a series of regional workshops being held around the state, this workshop was hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Standards and Assessment Section, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in order to identify fundamental relationships between nutrients and biological responses that apply to Florida’s estuaries and coastal systems. The objective of this effort is to identify those specific levels of nutrients that provide full support for aquatic life and do not cause adverse biological effects. Florida’s estuaries and coastal systems are dynamic systems that have widely varying water residence times and fluctuating salinities. Coastal systems are also influenced by local currents, fresh water sources and estuarine connectivity. FDEP is seeking to develop and compile information that, via empirical evidence or regional predictive models, links nutrient loadings to the relative risk of environmental harm.

This effort is fundamentally a “bottom-up approach” since the starting point consists of identifying the sensitive, valued ecological attributes for each system. Concurrently, data will be gathered on nutrients and other variables to determine what nutrient load would result in protection of the resource (maintaining full support of aquatic life). This methodology requires flexibility, and must be adjusted to account for the most sensitive marine communities found in each system. FDEP recognizes that a ’one size fits all approach’ to the state’s estuaries and coastal systems is not likely to be a viable option. A meeting summary will be prepared, and draft criteria based on the outcomes of the workshop will be compiled for participant and agency review later this spring.

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