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

DEP Participates in Annual Collaborative Effort to Assess Coral Reef Health

Karen Bohnsack
Reef Resilience Coordinator

CRCP staff conduct Distrubance Response Monitoring surveys. Photo: FDEP CRCP
CRCP staff conduct Distrubance Response Monitoring surveys. Photo: FDEP CRCP

In October, DEP’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) completed coral reef survey dives as part of the Florida Reef Resilience Program’s 2013 Disturbance Response Monitoring.

The Florida Reef Resilience Program is a collaborative partnership between reef managers, scientists, conservation organizations, and reef users to increase understanding of coral reef health and develop strategies to improve resilience across the Florida Reef Tract. Reef resilience is the capacity of reefs to resist or recover from disturbances, including climate change-induced stress and human use impacts. Understanding where resilient reefs exist, and what factors influence a reef’s ability to retain its function and structure under stress, is essential for enhancing the sustainability of reef-dependent recreational and commercial activities, including fisheries and tourism.  

The Disturbance Response Monitoring efforts are specifically designed to assess coral reef health after disturbances, with a primary focus on coral bleaching, a stress response whereby corals expel algae living in their tissues. These algae are responsible for giving corals their color and also providing up to 90% of their nutrients. Bleaching can occur as a result of a number of disturbances, including above-average sea surface temperatures and increased light exposure during calm conditions. While bleached corals are still alive, severe or prolonged stress can lead to death. Disturbance Response Monitoring surveys have been held annually since 2005, during the late summer when ocean temperatures are at their highest, and the risk of thermal stress to coral is greatest.

In 2013, CRCP staff partnered with teams from The Nature Conservancy, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to survey 100 sites from Monroe to Martin County and provide a holistic assessment on the condition of coral reefs across the entire Florida Reef Tract. Both CRCP’s SEAFAN BleachWatch and the Florida Keys BleachWatch programs support the Florida Reef Resilience Program’s efforts by tracking weather conditions and sea surface temperatures, and collecting field observations from trained observers to provide bleaching outlooks throughout the summer. For more information visit:  

SEAFAN BleachWatch:  http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/programs/coral/bleachwatch.htm

Florida Keys BleachWatch: http://www.mote.org/Keys/research/bleaching.phtml

Florida Reef Resilience Program: http://www.frrp.org/



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