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Tampa Bay and Keys

From: TBEP, 2003; ANEP, 2003

Tampa Bay is Florida's largest open-water estuary and borders the Hillsborough, Manatee and Pinellas counties, stretching over 1031 sq. km. Sources of water into the bay come from over a hundred tributaries.

The bay has been designated an estuary of national significance by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is characterized by mangrove-blanketed islands and mud flats. The habitat includes more than 200 species of fish and 25 different species of birds. It is estimated that one-sixth of the endangered manatees on the state's Gulf Coast find winter refuge in the warm-water outfalls of power plants bordering the bay. The bay is also home to dolphins and sea turtles.

Within the estuary resides the 403-acre Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the 350-acre Egmont Key NWR, both located offshore and accessible only by boat. The refuges were established in 1951 and 1974, respectively, as breeding grounds for colonial bird species. Several islands comprise the Pinellas refuge and include Indian, Tarpon, Mule, and Jackass Keys. Species nesting on the islands include brown pelicans, herons, egrets, cormorants, and numerous other species. The islands are currently closed year-round to all public use because of their small size and critical importance to coastal species.

Tampa Bay and Keys

Coordinates:   27.63° N  82.56° W

Selected Characteristics: (USEPA, 1999)
Surface Area:   896 km2
Drainage Area:   6,700 km2
Average Daily FW Inflow:   68 m3/s
Average Depth:   3.0 m
Average Salinity:   27 ppt
Coastal Wetlands:   1,020 km2
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation:  121 km2

USEPA. 1999. Ecological condition of estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. EPA 620-R-98-004. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, Florida. 80 pp.

Association of National Estuary Programs (ANEP). Located on the web at:

Tampa Bay National Estuary Program (TBEP)website, (see link below), 2003.

Additional Information:
Tampa Bay National Estuary Program
Environmental Protection Agency - Tampa Bay
Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge
Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge
Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge

Keywords:   Manatee, Dolphin, Sea turtle, Shorebird, Tampa, Bay, National wildlife efuge

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