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Sweetwater Creek Watershed Mgmt. Plan 2007 Update--Part 2

Sweetwater Creek Watershed Mgmt. Plan 2007 Update--Part 2

Sweetwater Creek Watershed Mgmt. Plan 2007 Update--Part

CHAPTER 8: EXISTING NATURAL SYSTEMS CONDITIONS 8.1 Overview The Sweetwater Creek watershed area encompasses 13,570 acres in Hillsborough County. The watershed contains plant communities, both terrestrial and aquatic, that provide a variety of important environmental functions, including habitat for listed species and other wildlife, stability for stream banks and lake shores, improvement of water and air quality, and moderation of water and air temperatures. However, plant communities have undergone several periods of significant alteration since the 1830’s as land use in the watershed changed from original conditions to agriculture to the current suburban/urban uses. Land use shifts have left the watershed with substantially less acreage in native plant communities, impaired water quality in streams, degradation of all plant communities by non-native invasive plants, and highly disturbed stream banks and lake shores. Most populations of native wildlife have been reduced and/or eliminated. One of the objectives of this watershed management plan is to identify opportunities to restore and protect natural systems in the watershed which are important in preventing excessive runoff volumes and pollutant loads, restoring and/or maintaining terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, protecting stream channel stability, and reducing stream bank erosion. The first step toward this goal is to describe the historical and existing natural systems in the Sweetwater Creek watershed and to identify specific key factors that prove useful in assessing watershed ecosystem quality. The evaluation of the key factors is done by means of a prioritization matrix which ranks the subwatersheds with respect to environmental quality. A discussion of the overall trends in environmental quality is provided early in the chapter, followed by more discussion of the significant issues for habitats and wildlife within the Sweetwater Creek watershed. 8.2 Data Sources/Literature Review Several reports were reviewed for this report, and a list appears in the Bibliography in Section 8.9. Further, Geographic Information System (GIS) databases were utilized from the following organizations: • Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) • Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) • Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) • Hillsborough County Stream Waterwatch Program 8-1 Sweetwater Creek Watershed Management Plan

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