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About Coral Reefs

Florida is home to the only living coral reef in North America. Coral reefs are one of the most productive and diverse ecosystems in the world, providing habitat and food for a staggering variety of marine organisms. Reefs also serve as a buffer for the mainland, protecting the shoreline from erosion and storm surges.

Recent research into coral habitats has helped climatologists better understand changing weather patterns. Corals are very sensitive to changes in their environment and artificial changes have led to a rapid decline in the health of the world's coral reefs. An epidemic of diseases, impacts from human activities, and a phenomenon known as coral "bleaching" are the main contributors to the decline in coral reefs. The international community has recognized their importance as a vital habitat for marine life and as a barometer for impending climate changes.

Coral reefs are made up of many different species of coral. These corals may look and act like plants, but they are actually a type of colonial animal. Each individual coral animal is called a polyp. Reef-building (or hermatypic) coral polyps require a very specific environment for survival. Coral reefs exist only in high salinity, low turbidity, warm, tropical waters. Most reef-building corals are found in waters with a depth less than 25 meters. South Florida is the only region in North America that embodies these specific requirements. Miami-Dade County's reef tract stretches the full length of the county, from Miami Beach to the southern limits of Biscayne National Park.

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Mon May 20, 2013 1:46:45 PM
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