Current condition: Poor and declining
According to the best available GIS information at this time (see Appendix D. GIS Data Tables), approximately 1,400,000 acres (566,560 ha) of Coral Reef are present in Florida.
A Coral Reef is an epibenthic community; a concentrated topographic complex of massive corals and other sessile organisms (algae, bryozoans) that build calcium carbonate (limestone) skeletons. The structural complexity provides habitat for a highly diverse flora and fauna that live all or portions of their lives on Coral Reefs.
Two major Coral Reef types are recognized: patch reefs and offshore bank reefs. Bank Reefs are further defined by zones (e.g., reef flat, spur and groove). The types of Coral Reefs found off the coast of Florida include the shallow-wave resistant reefs in the region from Dry Tortugas to Martin County; deeper (30-130 ft; 10-40 m) reefs in the same region; the Oculina Banks seaward of Palm Beach to Vero Beach. Deep water (165-265 ft; 50-80 m) s tructures such as Pulley Ridge and the Florida Middle Grounds occur along the west Florida shelf break in federal waters.
Download the Coral Reef chapter from the Action Plan.
Visit the Internet Mapping Service (IMS) website to explore detailed, interactive maps of all FWLI habitat categories.
What is being done to conserve Coral Reefs?
Florida's Wildlife Legacy Initiative recently funded a coral reef mapping project through the State Wildlife Grants Program. Dr. Brian Walker from the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, will characterize and determine the extent of coral reefs in Southeast Florida.
Little data, and thus limited knowledge, exists about the reef resources of Martin County. To fully understand and manage these benthic resources, it is important to map the marine benthic habitats and to characterize and quantify the distribution of the coral and other benthic communities.
In December 2008, scientists began by conducting a high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) bathymetric survey to image the sea floor. The next step, habitat mapping, will outline and define the features within the survey area. The final phase will map the densities of organisms within the features.
This project will create maps that will provide critical information scientists need to understand the extent of the coral reef habitat throughout Martin County and Southeast Florida. They will enable managers to enforce impact-avoidance and assist in developing strategies to conserve reef resources for future generations.
For more information, please contact the FWLI Coral Reefs lead, Dan OMalley.
View Coral Reef Project Posters
Additional current and recent coral projects conducted by a variety of conservation partners include:
What wildlife species will benefit?