Florida Reef

The Florida Reef (also known as the Great Florida Reef, Florida reefs, Florida Reef Tract and Florida Keys Reef Tract) is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.[1] It is the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef).[2] It lies a few miles seaward of the Florida Keys, is about 4 miles (6 to 7 km) wide and extends (along the 20 meter depth contour) 270 km (170 mi) from Fowey Rocks just east of Soldier Key to just south of the Marquesas Keys. The barrier reef tract forms a great arc, concentric with the Florida Keys, with the northern end, in Biscayne National Park, oriented north-south and the western end, south of the Marquesas Keys, oriented east-west. The rest of the reef outside Biscayne National Park lies within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Isolated coral patch reefs occur northward from Biscayne National Park as far north as Stuart, in Martin County. Coral reefs are also found in Dry Tortugas National Park west of the Marquesas Keys. There are more than 6,000 individual reefs in the system. The reefs are 5,000 to 7,000 years old, having developed since sea levels rose following the Wisconsinan glaciation.[3]

The densest and most spectacular reefs, along with the highest water clarity, are found to the seaward of Key Largo (in and beyond John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park) and Elliott Key where the two long keys help protect the reefs from the effects of water exchange with Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, Card Sound and Barnes Sound. The bays and sounds (all between the Florida Keys and the mainland) tend to have lower salinity, higher turbidity and wider temperature variations than the water in the open ocean. Channels between the Keys allow brackish water from the bays to flow onto the reefs (especially in the middle Keys), limiting their growth.[4]

Florida reef tract
Three-dimensional map of southern Florida showing the Florida Reef in red.

Reef structure and communities

The Florida Reef consists of two ridges separated from the Florida Keys by the Hawk Channel. Closest to the Keys is a sand ridge called White Bank, covered by large beds of sea grass, with patch reefs scattered across it. Further out to sea on the edge of the Florida Straits is the second ridge forming the outer reefs, covered by reefs and hard banks composed of coral rubble and sand.[5]

Almost 1,400 species of marine plants and animals, including more than 40 species of stony corals and 500 species of fish, live on the Florida Reef. The Florida Reef lies close to the northern limit for tropical corals, but the species diversity on the reef is comparable to that of reef systems in the Caribbean Sea.[6]

The Florida Museum of Natural History defines three communities on the Florida reefs. The hardbottom community lies closest to the Florida Keys and consists primarily of algae, sea fans (gorgonians) and stony corals growing on limestone rock that has a thin covering of sand. The stony corals in hardbottom communities include Smooth Starlet coral (Siderastrea radians), Mustard Hill Coral (Porites astreoides), Golfball coral (Favia fragum), Elliptical Star coral (Dichocoenia stokesii) and Common Brain coral (Diploria strigosa). Hardbottom provides habitat for anemones, mollusks, crabs, spiny lobsters, seastars, sea cucumbers, tunicates and various fish, including grunts (Haemulon spp.), snappers (Lutjanus spp.), groupers (Epinephelus spp.), tangs (Acanthurus coeruleus), Ocean surgeon (Acanthurus bahianus) and Great barracuda (Spyraena barracuda).[7]

Montastraea annularis Molasses reef FL
Boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis) on Molasses Reef

Second is the patch reef community. Patch reefs form in shallow water (three to six meters deep), some in Hawk Channel and some on the outer reef, but mainly on White Bank between Hawk Channel and the outer reefs. Patch reefs start from corals growing on a hard bottom, but grow upward as new corals establish themselves on the skeletons of dead corals. Most of the structure of patch reefs is formed from star (Montastraea annularis, Siderastrea siderea) and brain corals (Diploria spp.). Other corals attach wherever there is an opening. Patch reefs may grow up to the surface of the water, and spread outwards. Dome-type patch reefs (such as Hen and Chickens), found in Hawk Channel and on White Bank, are round or elliptical, and are generally less than three meters high, but may reach up to nine meters high. Dome-type patch reefs are surrounded by sand which is kept clear due to browsing by long-spined sea urchins and grass-eating fish. Linear-type patch reefs are found on the outer reefs, and are linear or curved. They occur in single or multiple rows, trending the same direction as the bank reefs on the outer reefs. Linear-type patch reefs often include Elkhorn coral, which is rare on the dome-type patch reefs. As dead coral skeletons age and are weakened by the activities of boring sponges, worms, and mollusks and by wave action, parts of a patch reef may collapse. Patch reefs provide habitat for spiny lobsters and for many species of fish, including Bluehead wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum), damselfish (Chromis spp.), Ocean surgeon, French and Queen angelfish (Pomacanthus spp.), White, Caesar and Spanish grunts (Haemulon ssp.), Yellowtail and other snappers, Redband and Stoplight parrotfish (Sparisoma ssp.), Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis), Tomtate (Haemulon aurolineatum), Trumpetfish (Aulostomus maculatus), filefish, groupers, snappers, Bar jack (Caranx ruber), Great barracuda, pufferfish, squirrelfish, cardinalfish, and green morays (Gymnothorax funebris).[8]

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) on Molasses Reef

Third is the bank reef community. Bank reefs are larger than patch reefs and are found on the outer reefs. Bank reefs consist of three zones. The reef flat is closest to the keys, and consists of coralline algae growing on fragments of coral skeletons. Further out to sea are the spur and groove formations, low ridges of coral (the spurs) separated by channels with sand bottoms (the grooves). The shallowest parts of the spurs support fire corals and zoanthids. Starting at five or six feet deep, Elkhorn, star, and brain corals are the most important members of the community. Various types of gorgonians are also common. Beyond the spur and groove zone is the forereef, which slopes down to the deeps. The upper forereef is dominated by star coral. At greater depths plate-like corals dominate, and then as the available light fades, sponges and non-reef building corals become common. Bank reefs provide habitat for various fishes, including French angelfish, Blue and Queen parrotfish, Queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula), Rock beauties (Holacanthus tricolor), Goatfish (Parupeneus cyclostomus), Porkfish (Anisotremus virginicus) and snappers. The sand found around and in the Florida Reef is composed of shell, coral skeleton and limestone fragments.[9]

Other common species of hard coral found on the Florida Reef include Ivory Bush Coral (Oculina diffusa), which is the dominant coral in the patch reefs along the Florida coast north of the Florida Keys, Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), Lettuce Coral (Agaricia agaricites), Grooved Brain Coral (Diploria labyrinthiformis), Boulder Star Coral (Monstastrea annularis), Great Star Coral (M. cavernosa), Clubbed Finger Coral (Porites porites) and Massive Starlet Coral (Siderastrea siderea).[10]

Individual reefs

Notable individual reefs in the Florida reef system include:

Threats to the reefs

Staghorn Looe Key 2010
Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) on Looe Key

Nearly 25% of all ocean life thrives on coral reefs, making these fragile habitats a necessity to ocean ecosystems. Plant and animal life on coral reefs are quickly being destroyed due to pollution, overfishing, and climate change. Animals known as polyps, which create the fundamental structure of a reef, die from ingesting tiny bits of trash floating throughout the ocean called microplastics. Overfishing is also threatening reef fish populations, which feed on the algae that will smother corals. Fluctuating ocean temperatures caused by global warming presents the largest threat to coral reefs. The sudden warming or cooling of the water stresses the corals, causing them to lose their nutrients and turn white, a process known as bleaching.With the destruction of these complex yet fragile ecosystems comes a wide range of global consequences such as extinction of marine species, endangerment to the fishing industries, and severe coastal erosion.

In common with coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and the world, the Florida Reef exhibits some signs of stress and deterioration. Precht and Miller state that the numbers of Elkhorn and Staghorn corals (Acropora ssp.) are declining to an extent that is unprecedented in several thousand years. Between 1981 and 1986, Staghorn corals declined by 96% at Molasses Reef. Between 1983 and 2000 at Looe Key, Elkhorn corals declined by 93% and Staghorn corals by 98%. A joint reef monitoring program conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Marine Research Institute and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded a loss of 6% to 10% living corals at 40 sampling stations from 1996 to 2000.[11]

Elevated temperatures can damage coral reefs, causing coral bleaching. The first recorded bleaching incident on the Florida Reef was in 1973. Incidents of bleaching have become more frequent in recent decades, in correlation with a rise in sea surface temperatures. White band disease has also adversely affected corals on the Florida Reef[12]. While hurricanes often can cause localized damage to Elkhorn and Staghorn corals, Precht and Miller state that the severe and widespread loss of those corals on the Florida Reef cannot be attributed to hurricane damage. Other possible causes of the losses of corals on the Florida Reef include epizootic diseases, eutrophication, predation, sedimentation, overfishing, ship groundings, anchor dragging, commercial lobster and crab traps moved by storms, pollution, development on the Keys, growing numbers of visitors to the Keys and the reefs and the growth of seaweed on the coral.[13]

Long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum)

The long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum), which browses on seaweed on and around reefs, was sharply reduced in numbers on the Florida Reef (and throughout the Caribbean) in the 1980s. While populations of this sea urchin have somewhat recovered elsewhere, its numbers are still very low on most of the Florida Reef, with the exception of the Dry Tortugas. As a consequence, there has been no effective check of the growth of seaweed on reef corals. However, the severe die-off of Elkhorn and Staghorn corals occurred before the die-off of the sea urchins, so that the proliferation of seaweed following the loss of the sea urchins was not the cause of the die-off of the corals, but may be retarding recovery by the corals.[14]

Another threat to the Florida Reef is the ongoing rise in sea level. The sea level has risen almost six inches (15 cm) at Key West since 1913, and one foot (30 cm) since 1850. This rise in sea level increases the volume of water in Florida Bay significantly, and increases the exchange of water between the Bay and the water over the reefs. The lower salinity, higher turbidity and more variable temperature of the water from Florida Bay adversely affects the reefs. A continued rise in sea level would likely intensify the effect.[15]

A perceived deterioration of the reefs became a concern in the 1950s. Early attempts to protect the reefs led to the establishment in 1960 of a protected area that became John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The creation of Biscayne National Monument (which later became Biscayne National Park) in 1968 protected the northern part of the Florida Reef. In 1990 the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was established, bringing all of the Florida reef into federal or state protection.[16]

Human use

Human use of the reefs has grown tremendously in the past century. One measure of the growth is that registrations for recreational boats in Monroe County increased by 1000% from 1964 to 2006.[17]

Recreational use of the Florida Reef and surrounding waters is popular and important to the economy of southern Florida, and in particular, of Monroe County. In 2000-2001 artificial and natural reefs in South Florida[18] and Monroe County had 28 million person-days of recreational use by residents and tourists, including scuba diving, fishing and viewing (as, for example, by snorkeling). These activities generated $4.4 million in sales, generated almost $2 million in local income and provided more than 70,000 full- and part-time jobs. The estimated asset value of the reefs was $8.5 billion. About two-thirds of the activity was related to natural reefs.[19]

In Monroe County for the period of June 2000 to May 2001 almost 5.5 million person-days of reef related activities resulted in $504 million in sales, which generated $140 million in income for 10,000 full- and part-time jobs. Almost two-thirds of the activity was by residents, and about half the activity involved fishing, with one-third involving snorkeling and one-sixth scuba diving. [20]

In Dade County for the period from June 2000 to May 2001 a little over 6 million person-days of reef related activities resulted in $1,297 million in sales, which generated $614 million in income for 19,000 full- and part-time jobs. The activity was about evenly split between residents and tourists. As in Monroe County, about half the activity involved fishing, with one-third involving snorkeling and one-sixth scuba diving.[21]

Shipwrecks and lighthouses

The Florida Current (which merges with the Antilles Current near the northern end of the barrier reef to form the Gulf Stream) passes close to the Florida Reef through the Straits of Florida. Ships began wrecking along the Florida Reef almost as soon as Europeans reached the New World. From early in the 16th century Spanish ships returning from the New World to Spain sailed from Havana to catch the Gulf Stream, which meant they passed close to the Florida Reef, with some wrecking on the reefs. In 1622, six ships of the Spanish treasure fleet, including the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, wrecked during a hurricane in the lower Keys. In 1733, 19 ships of the Spanish treasure fleet wrecked during a hurricane in the middle and upper keys. In the 19th century the Straits became the major route for shipping between the eastern coast of the United States and ports in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean Sea. The combination of heavy shipping and a powerful current flowing close to dangerous reefs made the Florida Reef the site of many wrecks. By the middle of the 19th century ships were wrecking on the Florida Reef at the rate of almost once a week (the collector of customs in Key West reported a rate of 48 wrecks a year in 1848).[22] Between 1848 and 1859 at least 618 ships were wrecked on the Florida Reef.[23] The Assistant United States Coast Surveyor reported that in the period from 1845 through 1849 almost one million (United States) dollars worth of vessels and cargos were lost on the reef.[24] The chief motivation for the Florida Railroad, the first railroad to connect the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida, was to allow goods to be transferred between ships in the Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico, thus avoiding the dangerous passage along the Florida Reef. Salvaging wrecks on the reefs was the principal occupation in the Florida Keys through much of the 19th century, helping make Key West the biggest and richest city in Florida for a while.[25]

Some of the reefs in the Florida Reef are named after ships that wrecked on them. Fowey Rocks is named after HMS Fowey, which, however, actually wrecked on Ajax Reef. Looe Key is named after HMS Looe. Alligator Reef is named after the USS Alligator.[26] Carysfort Reef is named after HMS Carysfort, which ran aground on the reef, but did not sink.[27]

Carysfort Reef Light

Soon after the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821, it began building lighthouses along the Florida coast. The first lighthouses marking the Florida Reef were the Cape Florida Light, at the northern end of the Reef, the Dry Tortugas Light (on Bush Key), marking the western end of the Reef, and the Key West Light, all first lit in 1825. A light ship was placed at Carysfort Reef in 1825, as well. Garden Key Light, also in the Dry Tortugas, was added in 1826, and Sand Key Light (six nautical miles from Key West), was added in 1827. Large stretches of the Florida Reef remained unprotected by lighthouses, however. Keeping lights in operation along the Florida Reef proved difficult. The Carysfort Reef light ship was often blown out of position, and one time even onto a reef. The first light ship had to be replaced after just five years due to dry rot. The Cape Florida lighthouse was burned by Seminoles in 1836, and was not repaired and re-lit until 1847. The Key West and Sand Key lighthouses were destroyed by a hurricane in 1846. Starting at Carysfort Reef in 1852, skeletal tower lighthouses were built on submerged reefs to place lights as close to the outer edge of the Florida Reef as possible. With the completion of the American Shoal Light in 1880 there were finally navigation lights visible along the full length of the Florida Reef.[28]

In order to provide better charts for ships sailing along the Florida Reef, the Florida Keys, including the reef, and the waters to the west of the Keys, including Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay, were surveyed in the 1850s. The United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers established a base camp on Key Biscayne in 1849. The triangulation survey was conducted by the U.S. Coast Survey with men detailed from the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. In 1855 Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey, assumed personal direction of the survey. In 1851 Louis Agassiz was sent by the U.S. Coast Survey to study the Florida Reef.[29] His report on the reefs was published in 1880.[30]


  1. ^ The biggest coral reef in the continental U.S. is dissolving into the ocean Accessed May 6, 2016
  2. ^ Florida NOAA's Coral Reef Information System Accessed December 14, 2010
  3. ^ Florida's Coral Reefs Florida Department of Environmental Protection Accessed December 14, 2010.
    Florida Keys Conservation: National Marine Sanctuary Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 14, 2010
    Precht and Miller:243
    Marszalek et alia:224
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134 - Florida Reef Tract Accessed December 16, 2010
    Precht and Miller:243
    Marszalek et alia:228
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134 - Florida Reef Tract Accessed December 16, 2010
  6. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134 - Florida Reef Tract Accessed December 16, 2010
  7. ^ Hardbottom Community Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 15, 2010
  8. ^ Patch Reef Community Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 15, 2010
    Marszalek et alia:224, 227
  9. ^ Bank Reef Community Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 15, 2010
  10. ^ Common Corals of Florida Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 15, 2010
    Coral Reefs Geographical Distribution Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History Accessed December 15, 2010
  11. ^ Precht and Miller:241, 246, 267
  12. ^ "The Disease Threatening Coral Reefs In Martin County". Stuart Magazine. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  13. ^ Precht and Miller:243-44, 245, 247-48, 249
    The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Florida Keys Accessed December 17, 2010
  14. ^ Large-scale surveys on the Florida Reef Tract indicate poor recovery of the long-spined sea urchin Diadema antillarum Accessed December 17, 2010
    Precht and Miller:249
    The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Florida Keys Accessed December 17, 2010
  15. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134 - Coral Reefs and Sea Level Accessed December 16, 2010
  16. ^ Precht and Miller:266
  17. ^ The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the Florida Keys Accessed December 17, 2010
  18. ^ "The World Of Artificial Reef Systems Off South Florida's Shores". Palm Beacher Magazine. Retrieved 2019-06-14.
  19. ^ NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program - Tourism and Recreation Accessed December 17, 2010
  20. ^ Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Southeast Florida - Monroe County Accessed December 17, 2010
  21. ^ Socioeconomic Study of Reefs in Southeast Florida - Miami-Dade County Accessed December 17, 2010
  22. ^ Viele. Pp. 54-5
  23. ^ Langley and Parks:5
  24. ^ Blank:63
  25. ^ Viele 2001:3-14, 54-5, 166
    Facts about Monroe County Archived 2010-07-24 at the Wayback Machine Accessed December 17, 2010
  26. ^ Viele 1999:26-31, 92-94
  27. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Florida". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office.
  28. ^ Viele 2001:140, 154-59
    United States Coast Guard Historic Light Station Information & Photography - Florida - American Shoal Light Accessed December 16, 2010
  29. ^ Blank:61-66
  30. ^ Agassiz, Louis. (1880) "Report on the Florida reefs." Memoirs of the Museum of Comparative Zoology VII:1. Harvard College. Accessed December 14, 2010


  • Blank, Joan Gill. (1996) Key Biscayne. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-096-4
  • Burnett, Gene. (1991) Florida's Past: People and Events That Shaped the State. Volume 3. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press. ISBN 1-56164-117-0
  • Langley, Wright and Arva Moore Parks (editors). (1983) "Diary of an Unidentified Land Official, 1855: Key West to Miami." Tequesta: The Journal of the Historical Association of Southern Florida. Number XLIII. Found at [1] Accessed December 19, 2010
  • Marszalek, D. S., G. Babashoff, Jr., M. R. Noel and D. R. Worley. (1977) "Reef Distribution in South Florida." Proceedings, Third International Coral Reef Symposium. Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami. Found at [2] Accessed December 18, 2010
  • Precht, W. F. and S. L. Miller. (2007) "Ecological Shifts along the Florida Reef Tract: The Past as a Key to the Future." In R. B. Aronson. (Editor) Geological Approaches to Coral Reef Ecology. Found at [3] Accessed December 16, 2010
  • Turner, Gregg. (2003) A Short History of Florida Railroads. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-2421-2
  • Viele, John. (1999) The Florida Keys: True Tales of the Perilous Straits. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-179-0
  • Viele, John. (2001) The Florida Keys: The Wreckers. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56164-219-3

[1] [2] [3] [4]

External links

  1. ^ Bhattacharyya, Joydeb. "Hysteresis In Coral Reefs Under Macroalgal Toxicity And Overfishing". EBSCO. Journal of Biological Physics. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  2. ^ Hobbs, Jean-Paul A. "Taxonomic, Spatial And Temporal Patterns Of Bleaching In Anemones Inhabited By Anemonefishes". EBSCO. Plos. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  3. ^ "NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program". coralreef.noaa. NOAA. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  4. ^ Stevens, Alison Pearce. "Corals Dine On Microplastics". EBSCO. ." Science News For Students. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is an American national park in southern Florida, south of Miami. The park preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. Ninety-five percent of the park is water, and the shore of the bay is the location of an extensive mangrove forest. The park covers 172,971 acres (270.3 sq mi; 700.0 km2) and includes Elliott Key, the park's largest island and northernmost of the true Florida Keys, formed from fossilized coral reef. The islands farther north in the park are transitional islands of coral and sand. The offshore portion of the park includes the northernmost region of the Florida Reef, one of the largest coral reefs in the world.

Biscayne National Park protects four distinct ecosystems: the shoreline mangrove swamp, the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay, the coral limestone keys and the offshore Florida Reef. The shoreline swamps of the mainland and island margins provide a nursery for larval and juvenile fish, molluscs and crustaceans. The bay waters harbor immature and adult fish, seagrass beds, sponges, soft corals, and manatees. The keys are covered with tropical vegetation including endangered cacti and palms, and their beaches provide nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. Offshore reefs and waters harbor more than 200 species of fish, pelagic birds, whales and hard corals. Sixteen endangered species including Schaus' swallowtail butterflies, smalltooth sawfish, manatees, and green and hawksbill sea turtles may be observed in the park. Biscayne also has a small population of threatened American crocodiles and a few American alligators.

The people of the Glades culture inhabited the Biscayne Bay region as early as 10,000 years ago before rising sea levels filled the bay. The Tequesta people occupied the islands and shoreline from about 4,000 years before the present to the 16th century, when the Spanish took possession of Florida. Reefs claimed ships from Spanish times through the 20th century, with more than 40 documented wrecks within the park's boundaries. While the park's islands were farmed during the 19th and early 20th centuries, their rocky soil and periodic hurricanes made agriculture difficult to sustain.

In the early 20th century the islands became secluded destinations for wealthy Miamians who built getaway homes and social clubs. Mark C. Honeywell's guesthouse on Boca Chita Key that featured a mock lighthouse was the area's most elaborate private retreat. The Cocolobo Cay Club was at various times owned by Miami developer Carl G. Fisher, yachtsman Garfield Wood, and President Richard Nixon's friend Bebe Rebozo, and was visited by four United States presidents. The amphibious community of Stiltsville, established in the 1930s in the shoals of northern Biscayne Bay, took advantage of its remoteness from land to offer offshore gambling and alcohol during Prohibition. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Central Intelligence Agency and Cuban exile groups used Elliott Key as a training ground for infiltrators into Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Originally proposed for inclusion in Everglades National Park, Biscayne Bay was removed from the proposed park to ensure Everglades' establishment. The area remained undeveloped until the 1960s, when a series of proposals were made to develop the keys in the manner of Miami Beach, and to construct a deepwater seaport for bulk cargo, along with refinery and petrochemical facilities on the mainland shore of Biscayne Bay. Through the 1960s and 1970s, two fossil-fueled power plants and two nuclear power plants were built on the bay shores. A backlash against development led to the 1968 designation of Biscayne National Monument. The preserved area was expanded by its 1980 re-designation as Biscayne National Park. The park is heavily used by boaters, and apart from the park's visitor center on the mainland, its land and sea areas are accessible only by boat.

Cape Florida Light

The Cape Florida Light is a lighthouse on Cape Florida at the south end of Key Biscayne in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Constructed in 1825, it guided mariners off the Florida Reef, which starts near Key Biscayne and extends southward a few miles offshore of the Florida Keys. It was operated by staff, with interruptions, until 1878, when it was replaced by the Fowey Rocks lighthouse. The lighthouse was put back into use in 1978 by the U.S. Coast Guard to mark the Florida Channel, the deepest natural channel into Biscayne Bay. They decommissioned it in 1990.

Within the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park since 1966, the lighthouse was relit in 1996. It is owned and operated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.


Florida ( (listen)) is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive (65,755 sq mi or 170,300 km2), the 3rd-most populous (21,312,211 inhabitants), and the 8th-most densely populated (384.3/sq mi or 148.4/km2) of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Florida's $1.0 trillion economy is the fourth largest in the United States. If it were a country, Florida would be the 16th largest economy in the world, and the 58th most populous as of 2018. In 2017, Florida's per capita personal income was $47,684, ranking 26th in the nation. The unemployment rate in September 2018 was 3.5% and ranked as the 18th in the United States. Florida exports nearly $55 billion in goods made in the state, the 8th highest among all states. The Miami Metropolitan Area is by far the largest urban economy in Florida and the 12th largest in the United States with a GDP of $345 billion as of 2017. This is more than twice the number of the next metro area, the Tampa Bay Area, which has a GDP of $145 billion. Florida is home to 51 of the world's billionaires with most of them residing in South Florida.The first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, who called it la Florida ([la floˈɾiða] "the land of flowers") upon landing there in the Easter season, known in Spanish as Pascua Florida. Florida was a challenge for the European colonial powers before it gained statehood in the United States in 1845. It was a principal location of the Seminole Wars against the Native Americans, and racial segregation after the American Civil War.

Today, Florida is distinctive for its large Cuban expatriate community and high population growth, as well as for its increasing environmental issues. The state's economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture, and transportation, which developed in the late 19th century. Florida is also renowned for amusement parks, orange crops, winter vegetables, the Kennedy Space Center, and as a popular destination for retirees. Florida is the flattest state in the United States. Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S. state of Florida.Florida's close proximity to the ocean influences many aspects of Florida culture and daily life. Florida is a reflection of influences and multiple inheritance; African, European, indigenous, and Latino heritages can be found in the architecture and cuisine. Florida has attracted many writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and continues to attract celebrities and athletes. It is internationally known for golf, tennis, auto racing, and water sports. Several beaches in Florida have turquoise and emerald-colored coastal waters.About two-thirds of Florida occupies a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, approximately 1,350 miles (2,170 km), not including the contribution of the many barrier islands. Florida has a total of 4,510 islands that are ten acres or larger in area. This is the second-highest number of islands of any state of the United States; only Alaska has more. It is the only state that borders both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the state is at or near sea level and is characterized by sedimentary soil. Florida has the lowest high point of any U.S. state. The climate varies from subtropical in the north to tropical in the south. The American alligator, American crocodile, American flamingo, Roseate spoonbill, Florida panther, bottlenose dolphin, and manatee can be found in Everglades National Park in the southern part of the state. Along with Hawaii, Florida is one of only two states that has a tropical climate, and is the only continental state with either a tropical climate or a coral reef. The Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, and the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world (after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize Barrier Reef).

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is the Florida government agency charged with environmental protection. It is under the nominal control of the governor.

Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost part of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 24.3 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.

More than 95 percent of the land area lies in Monroe County, but a small portion extends northeast into Miami-Dade County, such as Totten Key. The total land area is 137.3 square miles (356 km2). As of the 2010 census the population was 73,090 with an average density of 532.34 per square mile (205.54/km2), although much of the population is concentrated in a few areas of much higher density, such as the city of Key West, which has 32% of the entire population of the Keys. The US Census population estimate for 2014 is 77,136.

The city of Key West is the county seat of Monroe County. The county consists of a section on the mainland which is almost entirely in Everglades National Park, and the Keys islands from Key Largo to the Dry Tortugas.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary in the Florida Keys. It includes the Florida Reef, the only barrier coral reef in North America and the third-largest coral barrier reef in the world. It also has extensive mangrove forest and seagrass fields. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, designated in 1990, is the ninth national marine sanctuary to be established in a system that comprises 13 sanctuaries and two marine national monuments.The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects approximately 2,900 square nautical miles (9,900 km2; 3,800 sq mi) of coastal and ocean waters from the estuarine waters of south Florida along the Florida Keys archipelago, encompassing more than 1,700 islands, out to the Dry Tortugas National Park, reaching into the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

The mission of the sanctuary is to protect the marine resources of the Florida Keys while facilitating human uses that are consistent with the primary objective of resource protection. Sanctuary waters and habitats support high species diversity due to the presence of both tropical and subtropical species, including the largest documented contiguous seagrass community in the northern hemisphere and extensive coral reef habitat. The sanctuary is also home to maritime heritage resources that encompass a broad historical period.

Jack Tier

Jack Tier, or the Florida Reef is a novel by James Fenimore Cooper first published in 1848 by New York publisher Burgess, Stringer & Co. Set during the Mexican-American war, the novel relates a twenty-year homosocial relationship verging on the homoerotic between a sailor and the captain of the boat. But by the end of the novel the sailor is the captain's wife, transforming the story into one of heterosexual love and passion.The novel was first published serially in a magazine under the title Rose Budd in 1846. When commenting on the novel in the context of other novels about the Mexican-American War, critic Jaime Javier Rodríguez describes the novel as "an obscure work not always found in library stacks [thus it] remains largely unread but it too deserves attention."Garden Key Light on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas was used as the setting for the novel.

Joseph Bassett Holder

Joseph Bassett Holder (1824–1888) was an American zoologist and physician.

Holder was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, October 26, 1824 to parents Aaron L. and Rachel Bassett Holder. His mother was a Quaker minister. Holder studied at the Friends' School in Providence, Rhode Island, and then entered the Harvard Medical School, where, while a student, he acted as demonstrator of anatomy for Oliver Wendell Holmes, and was present at the first administration of ether as an anesthetic. He became city physician of Lynn, was founder of the Lynn Natural History Society, and made the first list of birds and plants in Essex county. He was a friend and colleague of Louis Agassiz.

In 1859 he accepted the position of physician for Fort Jefferson. In Florida at the request of Agassiz and Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian, and for seven years made an elaborate study of the Florida reef, being the first to establish the rapid growth of corals, an opposite view being held previous to that. At the breaking out of the Civil War, Holder joined the army as surgeon, and remained as post surgeon and health officer at Fort Jefferson, during the war. Holder resigned in 1869, to join Albert S. Bickmore in the establishment of the American Museum of Natural History of New York City, and became the curator of invertebrates. He was the author of "The Florida Reef"; join author with J. G. Wood of "Our Living World," an elaborate natural history; "The Museum of Natural History," written with Sir John Richardson; "The Atlantic Right Whale," and many scientific papers. He was a patron of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a founder and fellow of the American Ornithological Union; a member of the Society of Eastern Naturalists; member of the Society for Psychical Research; fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, Geographical and Linnaen societies, and member of the Harvard Club. He died in New York City on February 28, 1888. His son Charles Frederick Holder (1851–1915) became a noted science writer himself, and collaborated with the elder Holder on Elements of Zoology.

Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne (Spanish: Cayo Vizcaíno) is an island located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States, between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. It is the southernmost of the barrier islands along the Atlantic coast of Florida, and lies south of Miami Beach and southeast of Miami. The key is connected to Miami via the Rickenbacker Causeway, originally built in 1947.

The northern portion of Key Biscayne is home to Crandon Park, a county park. The middle section of the island consists of the incorporated Village of Key Biscayne. The southern part of the island is now protected as Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, adjacent to Biscayne National Park, one of the two national parks in Miami-Dade County.

Key Largo

Key Largo (Spanish: Cayo Largo) is an island in the upper Florida Keys archipelago and is the largest section of the Keys, at 33 miles (53 km) long. It is one of the northernmost of the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and the northernmost of the Keys connected by U.S. Highway 1 (the Overseas Highway). Its earlier Spanish name was Cayo Largo, meaning long islet.

Key Largo is connected to the mainland in Miami-Dade County by two routes. The first route is The Overseas Highway, which is U.S. Highway 1 that enters Key Largo at Jewfish Creek near the middle of the island and turns southwest. The second route is Card Sound Road, which connects to the northern part of Key Largo at Card Sound Bridge and runs southeastward to connect with County Road 905, which runs southwest and joins U.S. 1 at about mile marker 106. These routes originate at Florida City on the mainland.

Key Largo is a popular tourist destination and calls itself the "Diving Capital of the World" because the living coral reef a few miles offshore attracts thousands of scuba divers and sport-fishing enthusiasts.In 1870 a Post Office was established at "Caya Largo" (in the current Rock Harbor area). It closed and another was opened called "Largo" in 1881. An additional Post Offices opened in Planter in 1891 and Aiken in 1895.Key Largo's proximity to the Everglades also makes it a premier destination for kayakers and ecotourists. Automotive and highway pioneer and Miami Beach developer Carl G. Fisher built the Caribbean Club in 1938 as his last project.

The island gained fame as the setting for the 1948 film Key Largo, but apart from background filming used for establishing shots, the film was shot on a Warner Brothers sound stage in Hollywood. After the film's success, pressure from local businesses resulted in a change in the name of the post office serving the northern part of the island, from "Rock Harbor" to "Key Largo", on June 1, 1952. After that, every resident north of Tavernier had a Key Largo address and the postmark read "Key Largo".Three census-designated places are on the island of Key Largo: North Key Largo, near the Card Sound Bridge, Key Largo, eight or nine miles from the southern end of the island, and Tavernier, at the southern end of the island. As of 2010, the three places have a combined population of 13,850. None of Key Largo is an incorporated municipality, so it is governed at the local level by Monroe County.

Key Largo is situated between Everglades National Park to the northwest and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to the east, the first underwater park in the United States, which protects part of the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.

Key Largo Limestone

The Key Largo Limestone is a geologic formation in Florida. It is a fossilized coral reef. The formation is exposed along the upper and middle Florida Keys from Soldier Key (at the north end of the Florida Keys) to the Bahia Honda Channel (at the west end of Bahia Honda Key). The islands form a long narrow arc concentric with the inner edge of the Florida Straits and with the Florida Reef. The limestone includes fossils of corals, mollusks and bryozoans. Fossilized coral head formations are visible in some exposures. The Key Largo Limestone continues in a narrow band underwater just offshore of the coast of Florida north of Soldier Key to the middle of the Palm Beach County coast, and southward just offshore of the lower Florida Keys to the Dry Tortugas.

List of shipwrecks in 1838

This list of shipwrecks in 1838 includes some ships sunk, wrecked or otherwise lost during 1838.

List of shipwrecks in July 1831

The list of shipwrecks in July 1831 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during July 1831.

Pillar coral

Pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) is a hard coral (order Scleractinia) found in the western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is the only species in the monotypic genus Dendrogyra. It is a digitate coral -that is, it resembles fingers (Latin digites) or a cluster of cigars, growing up from the sea floor without any secondary branching. It is large and can grow on both flat and sloping surfaces at depths down to 20 m (65 ft). It is one of the few types of hard coral in which the polyps can commonly be seen feeding during the day.

Reef Check

Reef Check is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of two reef ecosystems: tropical coral reefs and Californian rocky reefs. The Foundation is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, United States, but uses data from volunteer scuba diver teams in over 80 countries, ranging from Australia, Japan, to even Germany. It is the United Nations’ official coral reef monitoring program.


Sabellariidae is a family of marine polychaete worms in the suborder Sabellida. The worms live in tubes made of sand and are filter feeders and detritivores.

Sombrero Key

Sombrero Key is a coral reef in the Florida Reef. It lies to the south of Vaca Key.

The reef lies within the Sombrero Key Sanctuary Preservation Area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.The Spanish called the reef Cayo Sombrero. As part of the reef was above water at low tide, it was also called "Dry Bank".The Sombrero Key Light was built on the reef in 1858, and continued in use until 2015. The lighthouse tower is unsafe, and boaters are forbidden from tying up to the tower or climbing on it.

Stony coral tissue loss disease

Stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) is a disease of corals that first appeared off the coast of Florida in 2014. By 2019 it had spread along the Florida Keys and had appeared elsewhere in the Caribbean Sea. The disease completely destroys the soft tissue of many species of stony coral, killing them within weeks or months of becoming infected. The causal agent is unknown but is suspected to be a bacterium. The degree of susceptibility of a coral, the symptoms, and the rate of progression of the disease vary between species.

Wrecking (shipwreck)

Wrecking is the practice of taking valuables from a shipwreck which has foundered or run aground close to shore. Often an unregulated activity of opportunity in coastal communities, wrecking has been subjected to increasing regulation and evolved into what is now known as marine salvage.

Wrecking is no longer economically significant. However, as recently as the 19th century in some parts of the world, it was the mainstay of otherwise economically marginal coastal communities.

A traditional legendary trope is that wreckers deliberately decoying ships on to coasts use tricks, especially false lights, so that they run ashore for easy plundering. While this has been depicted in many stories and legends, there is no clear evidence that this has ever happened.

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