Intercoastal Habitat

Click on any critter in the scene for more information.

This scene represents an environment that occurs in sheltered and semi-sheltered coastal areas from central Florida to the Keys.

In our area it occurs in Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, south towards the Ten Thousand Islands. In some areas, Hawk Channel and the Ten Thousand Islands, for example, the habitat is sheltered from exposure to the open sea by shallow reefs, oyster bars, and mangrove islands. In other areas, Pine Island Sound, South Biscayne Bay, Dollar Bay, Rookery Bay, and the waterway south past Marco Island, for example, the habitat is sheltered from the open sea by barrier islands.

The natural habitat is characterized by shorelines that are not sandy beaches but rather mangrove forest systems and hard substrates, such as exposed limestone and oysters. In some settings the shorelines have been dramatically altered by upland real estate development, Naples Bay for example, with the mangroves replaced by vertical seawalls or sloping riprap revetments, and the nearshore bottom material dredged to provide fill for the upland development.

Where the habitat is more natural, the fauna is similar to that found in a mangrove estuary, with the addition of larger predators, such as Bottlenose Dolphins, Blacktip Sharks, Barracuda, and Goliath Grouper. Also depicted are Snook, Gray Snapper, Sheepshead, and Mullet, a common prey of the larger predators.

A variety of invertebrates are shown associated with mangrove roots (Barnacles, Tunicates, Mangrove Crabs) and with the bottom (Stone Crabs, Blue Crabs, Starfish, Sponges, and Sea Fans). Because this habitat often lacks the fine sediment and fresh water inputs of an estuary, water clarity is such that Turtle Grass, Shoal Grass, and benthic Algae can thrive, and fish-eating birds, such as Ospreys and Double-Crested Cormorants have even greater success.

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