Title

Higher Latitude Coral reef Communities Off Densely Populated Southeast Florida, USA

Event Name/Location

International Society for Reef Studies European Meeting, Cambridge, United Kingdom, September 4-7, 2002

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

9-2002

Abstract

Significant coral reef community development along the eastern shelf of the United States is often described as stopping north of the Florida Keys (Latitude 25° 30’N). Nevertheless, a coral reef ecosystem continues northward (160+ km) of the Keys, through Miami- Dade, Broward, and into Palm Beach Counties, Florida (Latitude 27° N). The coral communities associated with this high latitude reef system have approximately 30 species of stony corals with a coverage of 2-3% and includes a diverse assemblage of soft corals, sponges and fishes. NSU OC and NCRI are working with local resource mangers (BC DPEP) on a reef monitoring program that collects information on stony (species richness, cover, mortality and disease) and soft corals (abundance), sponges (abundance), fishes (abundance and species) and sedimentation (rate and grain size). The reef system of Southeast Florida is typically described as having three reef ridges/terraces that run parallel to shore in sequentially deeper water. The general depth of the crest of the inshore (or first) reef is 5 m; the middle (or second) reef is 10 m; and the offshore (or third) reef is 17 m. Water temperatures were measured in 2000 and 2001 and ranged from a minimum of 19.5 °C in the winter months (December– February) to a maximum of 31.0 °C in the summer months (July – September). This reef system occurs near a highly urbanized area (the population of Broward County exceeds 1.6 million people, two inlets discharge offshore, and the reefs are within 3 km of the coast). As such, commercial and recreational fishing and diving, major shipping ports, ship groundings and dredging activities influence the system. The unique features of this reef system, and its proximity and value to the urban community of Southeast Florida, demand continued monitoring and increased investigation into the processes that affect it.