Spanning 400 square miles, Tampa Bay stretches from the head of the Hillsborough River to the salty waters near Anna Maria Island. This wide area of water makes for Florida’s largest open-water estuary, which harbors a rich and diverse assemblage of plants and animals, including the beloved bottlenosed dolphin. Today, Dolphin Quest eco tour shares more about this amazing estuary ecosystem.
What is an Estuary?
First, an estuary (aka bay, lagoon, sound, or slough) is a partially enclosed, coastal area where a freshwater river or stream meets the salt water in the ocean.
What we at Dolphin Quest find really cool is that, in the brackish waters of an estuary, water continually circulates. Estuaries are natural water filters due to the tides daily.
In Florida, storm surges and other ocean waves may flood the estuary with saltwater. The good is that most estuaries are protected from the ocean’s force thanks to geographical features such as reefs, islands, mud, and sand that act as natural barriers from ocean waves and wind.
What Animals Call an Estuary Home?
Many types of animals are found in estuaries. The calm, nutrient-rich waters of an estuary make it an attractive habitat for tons of plant and animal species. And on Dolphin Quest, we are pleased to see some many on our Madeira Beach sightseeing tour.
There are a large number of birds found in estuaries. At an average of only 11-feet deep, the Tampa Bay estuary is home to 25 species of wading and shorebirds like blue herons, eagles, and osprey that nest on the protected islands of the bay.
On our Tampa sightseeing tour, you’ll notice that the different types of birds all have different lengths of bills. Why? Each bird is adapted to eating different things, which reduces direct competition for food and allows more species of birds to inhabit the estuary ecosystem.
Additionally, one-sixth of the Gulf Coast population of Florida manatees that spend the winter months near power plants bordering the bay. This means our eco tour passengers may also encounter manatees on their sightseeing tour!
Lastly, our estuary ecosystem is also home to more than 200 species of fish!
Conservation of Estuaries
Thanks to steady improvements in water quality, our precious Tampa Bay is having a boom in ecological benefits. However, an increase in population has created an increase in pollution. Therefore, it has never been more important to maintain the quality of our bay; do your part to keep Tampa Bay clean and safe for the plants and wildlife that call it home!
Explore On A Tampa Eco Cruise
Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and ocean environments. They also are a great place to see many animals in their natural habitats! If you want to see bottlenose dolphin and other amazing coastal creatures in the Tampa Bay estuary, Dolphin Quest will give you an eco sightseeing tour to remember. Schedule your Madeira Beach, FL dolphin tour today!