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Presentations and Discussions Technology Briefings May 1999 Forum


Last updated: January 15, 2013
South Florida Restoration Science Forum

Out Coastal Ecosystems

The Florida Keys: What is happening to the reef tract and why?

Poster presented May 1999, at the South Florida Restoration Science Forum

Poster presented by: Dr. Eugene Shinn, USGS; Margaret Miller of NOAA

Part 1: Florida Coral Reefs: Declining Since 1975

Corals in the Florida Keys: Here are some observations of Florida Keys corals over the past 30+ years. Eugene Shinn has been visiting the same coral heads documenting changes in their health, size, and shape as well as changes in the surrounding environments of these coral heads.

USEPA Study: An USEPA funded study was conducted in the Florida Keys to document changes over a period of years to note if reefs are getting healthier, remaining the same, or declining. The conclusion is that reefs are in a decline and that the occurrence of diseases among corals has been rising. Some common reef diseases are displayed.

Corals In The Florida Keys
Observations And Photography Of Coral Species During The Past 30+ Years

Carysfort Reef
(Click on photos below for a full-sized version.)
Star Coral
(Montastrea annularis)
Brain Coral
(Diploria sp.)
star coral 1960 brain coral 1960
star coral 1971 brain coral 1971
star coral 1986
brain coral 1986
star coral 1998
brain coral 1988
These coral were flourishing until about 1975. By 1986 they were in decline and by 1998 they were mostly dead.
brain coral 1998

Serial photographs taken by Eugene Shinn, USGS


Grecian Rocks
(Click on photos below for a full-sized version.)
Star And Staghorn Coral
(Montastrea sp. and Acropora cervicornis)
Star Coral
star coral 1961
Staghorn Coral
staghorn coral 1965
Star And Staghorn Coral
star and staghorn coral1971
star and staghorn coral1976
star and staghorn coral1980
star and staghorn coral1978
star and staghorn coral1988
star and staghorn coral1979
star coral1992
Next This star coral was growing in 1961 following hurricane Donna. By 1965 it was being encroached upon by fast growing staghorn coral and by 1978 it was almost smothered by staghorn coral. In 1979 the staghorn began to die and was dead by 1988. By 1998 the area was populated by sea fans and sea whips. The original star coral is barely alive.
star coral, sea fans and sea whips1998


Brain Coral
(Colpophyllia natans)
(Click on photos below for a full-sized version.)
brain coral1959
brain coral1988
This brain coral was flourishing in 1959. By 1988 it was in decline and by 1998 it was mostly dead.
brain coral1998

Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)
Florida Keys Coral Reef Study

(Click on any image below to view a full-sized version.)

underwater filming
diver in study area

This study of 40 different sites in the Florida Keys began in 1994/1995. Between 1996 and 1997 the percent of coral cover had declined at most sites.

graph of mean stony coral cover
Graph of mean stony coral cover.

Coral diseases have been rampant in the past 20 years. Here are four examples...there may be more.
(Click on the photos below for a full-sized version.)
coral with black band disease
Black Band Disease
black band disease
Bleached Corals
bleached coral
White Disease
(White Plaque)
white disease
Other Diseases
(Ring Bleaching)
coral disease

This EPA funded research was conducted by several researchers:
  • Walter Jaap and Jennifer Wheaton, Fla. Dept. of Environmental Protection
  • Phillip Dustan, College of Charleston, South Carolina
  • James Porter, University of Georgia
  • Ouida Meier, Western Kentucky University

Related Links

Next Next: Reef Decline - it is lots of things

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Center for Coastal Geology
This page is: http://sofia.usgs.gov/sfrsf/rooms/coastal/flbay/index.html
Comments and suggestions? Contact: Heather Henkel - Webmaster
Last updated: 15 January, 2013 @ 12:44 PM (HSH)