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Conservation of the Florida Reef Tract. Lexi Dolbee , Michael Ho, and Jack Tesar. Florida Reef. 45 species of reef identified 358 miles of Florida Reef Tract Specific conditions to grow … warm waters, hard surface to attach, low nitrogen & phosphate levels, shallow, clear waters

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Conservation of the florida reef tract

Conservation of the Florida Reef Tract

LexiDolbee, Michael Ho, and Jack Tesar

Florida reef
Florida Reef

  • 45 species of reef identified

  • 358 miles of Florida Reef Tract

  • Specific conditions to grow … warm waters, hard surface to attach, low nitrogen & phosphate levels, shallow, clear waters

  • - Grow between ½ to 7 inches in a year

3 reef formations
3 Reef Formations

Atoll – roughly circular, surround large lagoon

Fringing – close to shore, shallow or no lagoon separation from shore

Barrier – parallel to shore, deep lagoon separation

Coral polyps
Coral Polyps

  • Individual animal called coral polyp, between 1-3 mm

  • Attach itself to hard surface, secrete calcium carbonate for protection

  • Undergo asexual reproduction, grow on top of polyp below


  • Called zooxanthellae

  • Symbiotic relationship with polyp’s

  • Through Photosynthesis, provide oxygen and sugars

  • Benefit from waste and protection


Calmer Waters,

Ivory Bush

Rougher water,

Common Brain

Blue tang
Blue Tang

  • Acanthuruscoeruleus

  • Order Perciformes

  • Feed on plankton, smaller fish

Stoplight parrotfish
Stoplight Parrotfish

  • Sparisomaviride

  • Perciformes

  • Beak-like jaw, consume polyps and zooxanthellae

  • Bite off coral, digestive tract separates coral and excretes it as white coral sand


  • Pterois

  • OrderScorpaeniformes

  • Invasive species, likely introduced from aquarium release

  • Fearless predator, consume native reef fish

  • No natural predators

  • Human spearfishing

Nutrient loading in the florida reef
Nutrient Loading in the Florida Reef

  • Wastewater from Everglades Agricultural Area

    • Sugarcane farming

    • Inundates the near-shore reef

  • Rich in nitrogen and phosphorous

Harmful algal blooms
Harmful Algal Blooms

  • High nitrogen and phosphorous levels promote Caulerpaalgae growth

  • Algae suffocates coral

    • Takes O2 and other nutrients

Harmful algal blooms1
Harmful Algal Blooms

  • Vicious Cycle

    • Coral destruction decreases herbivore habitat

    • Decreased herbivory promotes algal blooms

Dredging and trawling
Dredging and Trawling


  • Excavation of the sea floor

    Bottom Trawling:

  • Method of fishing involving dragging a net or cage across the sea floor

Dredging and trawling1
Dredging and Trawling

  • Rock Shrimp fisherman a leading cause of reef damage

    • Bottom Trawling

    • Boat anchors

  • Destroying the habitat of the shrimp they are trying to catch

Dredging and trawling2
Dredging and Trawling

  • Coral grows extremely slowly

    • M. annularis: 6-7 mm/year

  • Significant structural damage is essentially permanent

  • High tourist traffic in Florida jeopardizes coral

Effects of climate change
Effects of Climate Change

Webster, et al. 2005

  • Twofold increase in hurricane activity since 1930

    • Nat. Geo. News, 2007

  • Linked to increases in greenhouse gas emissions

    • Global Warming

Effects of climate change1
Effects of Climate Change

  • Severe weather events damaging to coral structure

    • Motion of water and debris

    • Sediment coverage

Case study the goliath grouper

Case Study: The Goliath Grouper

Koenig and Coleman:

Patterns of Recovery of the Goliath Grouper

Mangroves as Essential Nursery for Goliath Grouper

About the grouper
About the Grouper

Native to the Florida Barrier Reef

Historically commercially important

Highly susceptible to overexploitation and habitat destruction

Placed on critically endangered species by National Marine Fisheries

Native to the florida reef
Native to the Florida Reef

  • Largest population of grouper on the planet

    • Other populations found of the coast of Brazil and in the Caribbean, but they are so small they are considered extinct

Ecological impact
Ecological Impact

  • The goliath grouper dominates the reef biomass

    • But also a hypothesized to be a keystone species because they are a top-level predator

  • Positive relationship between species diversity on the reef and the presence of the Goliath Grouper

    • This positive relationship extends to greater diversity of other commercially important fish

      • EX. The snapper

Susceptibility of the goliath grouper
Susceptibility of the Goliath Grouper

Grow and mature very slowly

Group to spawn (makes them easier to catch)

Their nursery grounds are being exploited making reproduction difficult

Commercial importance
Commercial Importance

Rapid overexploitation in the 80’s

Fishery closed own in 1990 and grouper was placed on critically endangered species list

Mangrove nursery degraded by agricultural, industrial, and residential development: major barrier to recovery

Many in the fishing industry want the fishery reopened for economic gain- Highly debated

Conservation debates and attempts
Conservation Debates and Attempts

  • Many fishing industry stakeholders argue that the increase in the Florida population is reason to remove the goliath grouper from the endangered species list

    • However, due to the dramatic decline in other populations of Goliath grouper, the Florida population may be key to the prevention of extinction

  • The only protective measure currently implemented is the ban on fishing the grouper

    • This has led to an increase in the Florida Barrier Reef population, but it will not be enough to save the species

    • Mangroves are essential to the life cycle of the grouper, saving this resource saves the grouper and allows further recovery- Unfortunately development is harder to stop than overfishing

Conservation of the florida reef tract


  • “Its not rocket science. Its harder.”

    ~Steve Theberge, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Works cited
Works Cited

Finkl, C.W. and R.H. Charlier. 2003. Sustainability of Subtropical Coastal Zones in Southeastern Florida: Challenges for Urbanized Coastal Environments Threatened by Development, Pollution, Water Supply, and Storm Hazards. Journal of Coastal Research 19: 934-943

Gerhardinger, L.C., M. Hostim-Silva, R.P. Madeiros, J. Materazi, et al. 2009. Fisher's resource mapping and goliath grouper (Epinephelusitajara) conservation in Brazil. Neotropical Ichthyology. 7:93-102.Hoffmeister, J.E. and H.G. Multer. 1964. Growth-Rate Estimates of a Pleistocene Coral Reef of Florida. Geological Society of America Bulletin 75: 353-358.Koenig, CC, FC Coleman, AM Eklund, J. Schull, J. Ueland. 2007. Mangroves as essential nursery habitat for goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara). Bulletin of Marine Science 80(3):567-586.Koenig, C.C., F.C. Coleman, C.B. Grimes, G.R. Fitzhugh, K.M. Scanlon, C.T. Gledhill, and M. Grace. Protection of Fish Spawning Habitat for the Conservation of Warm-Temperature Reef-Fish Fisheries of Shelf-Edge Reefs of Florida. Bulletin of Marine Science 66(3): 593-616.Koenig, CC, FC Coleman, K Kingon. 2011. Pattern of recovery of the goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara (Lichtenstein, 1822) population in the southeastern U.S. Bulletin of Marine Science Fast Track Publication 87(0)0000 - doi:10.5343/bms. 2010.1056Lapointe, B.E. 1997. Nutrient Thresholds for Bottom-Up Control of Macroalgal Blooms on Coral Reefs in Jamaica and Southeast Florida. Limnology and Oceanography 42: 1119-1131.Porter, J.W. and O.W. Meier. 1992. Quantification of Loss and Change in Floridian Reef Coral Populations. Integrative and Comparative Biology 32(6): 625-640.Ruiz-Carus, Ramon. March 2006. The Western Pacific Red Lionfish, PteroisVolidae, (Scorpaeniformes), in Florida. Evidence for reproduction and parasitism in the first exotic marine fish established in state waters. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Biological Conservation. 128(3): 384-390.  Swart, Peter K. July 1996. The stable oxygen and carbon isotopic record from a coralgrowing in Florida Bay: a 160 year record of climatic and anthropogenic influence. University of Miami. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology. 123(1-4): 219-237.

Browning, M.,  1998.  'Green linguine'  causing  fragile  reefs to choke. The Herald, May 25,  p.7A.Coral Species Profiles. Florida Museum of Natural History.'s Coral Reefs. Department of Environmental Protection, Florida. July 19, 2011. do Stony Corals grow? National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. March 25, 2008., John. Invasive lionfish harming caribbean reefs. Florida Sea Grant.