Common Sea Fans (<em>Gorgonia ventilina</em>) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Common Sea Fans (Gorgonia ventilina) are one of several species of sea fans found in southeast Florida. Sea fans are also classified as soft corals or gorgonians.

Photo: Chantal Collier

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Juvenile bluehead wrasses swim along the reef in Palm Beach.

Photo: Joe Marino

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Southeast Florida Reef News

Taking Action in 2011 and Beyond

By Chantal Collier
Manager, Coral Reef Conservation Program

FDEP CRCP Staff. Photo: Breanne Markley
FDEP CRCP Staff. Photo: Breanne Markley

As everyone saw with the January 2010 cold water event in Florida, the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon event in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Fall 2010 warm water coral bleaching events in the Caribbean and the Pacific, threats to the health of coral reefs can come on unexpectedly and with potentially devastating, large-scale consequences. Southeast Florida contains one third of Florida’s population within just four counties (Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade) and depends heavily on healthy coastal resources to sustain its tourism- and fisheries-based economy. Floridians are very fortunate that our Florida Reef Tract and other coastal resources escaped harm from two of these catastrophic events. However, the cold water event caused extensive mortality on many inshore coral reefs of the Florida Keys and decimated many fish, reptile and invertebrate populations.

For long-lived species, such as corals and many species of fish, irreparable damage from events such as these may occur in an instant, but recovery may take many decades.  Recovery is also entirely dependent on the resilience of the ecosystem in which these species live and the intensity and frequency of stresses the system must endure. Where a healthy ecosystem exists before an impact occurs, the system has a good chance for recovery. However, coral reef ecosystems are in crisis. While the historical and current local-scale threats to coral reefs have generally remained the same, their intensity and extent has increased, with overfishing, coastal development, and pollution being the most persistent habitat degraders. The last few decades have introduced global-scale stressors, such as climate change and ocean acidification, which threaten coral reef communities around the world.

As 2010 draws to a close, it is time to take a serious look at the daily impacts we place on our coastal resources, with special attention to the most fragile and irreplaceable systems we depend on, such as our coral reefs. We must recognize and take stock of the losses we have already incurred; and we must take action in 2011 and beyond to improve the health and resilience of our remaining resources. With this goal in mind, managers, non-governmental organizations, scientists and people who depend on Florida’s reefs for their livelihood worked together to develop a 5-year Climate Change Action Plan for the Florida Reef System. You can view the full action plan and a 2-page plan summary on our website at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/climate_change.htm.

In conjunction with development of the Climate Change Action Plan, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (FDEP-CRCP) has continued to develop its Strategic Plan for the next 5 years. Since the last issue of Southeast Florida News, we have reviewed and responded to the 158 public comments received in response to the survey we conducted to inform development of the strategic plan. Comments and responses are available at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/pub/survey/Comment_Responses.pdf.

In the coming months, we will work to incorporate the survey results into the final Strategic Plan, which will guide the priorities and objectives of the FDEP-CRCP from 2011-2015.



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