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South Florida Aquatic Environments

Coral Reefs



IMPORTANCE OF CORAL REEFS
Nassau Grouper
© Mary Lou Frost
Nassau Grouper


Coral reefs are important for:

Fisheries

  • Reefs provide habitat for important recreational and subsistence fisheries
Over 500 federally managed fish and invertebrate species depend upon coral reefs and related habitats, including four Endangered Species Act candidate species. Throughout the world fisheries, coral reefs yield many tons of commercial fish catch annually. Reefs also provide important recreational and subsistence fisheries.

Shoreline
Shoreline
courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Shoreline Protection

  • Reefs prevent loss of life and property by protecting shorelines
Coral reefs prevent loss of life and property as well as erosion and flooding by reducing wave action along shorelines. Coral reefs also provide the sediments that eventually become sand on Florida's beautiful beaches.

Sponge
Shoreline
courtesy South Florida Water Management District

Pharmaceuticals

  • Reefs are considered "medicine cabinets" of the future!
Considered "medicine cabinets" of the future, coral reef organisms hold great promise for pharmaceuticals including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory drugs. Coral skeletons are also utilized as bone substitutes in reconstructive bone surgery.

SCUBA Divers
courtesy OAR/National Undersea Research Program
Divers

Tourism

  • Reefs attract ecotourism and much needed currency for local economies
Eco-tourism has developed dramatically during recent years, attracting millions of tourists every year. Many tropical countries rely on tourism to bring much needed foreign currency in order to support local economies.


Research Biologists
courtesy OAR/National Undersea Research Program
Diving Biologists-NOAA

Education

  • Reefs are "living laboratories" for scientists and students
Coral reefs are "living laboratories" where scientists as well as students can study the ecology and impacts on this habitat, relating such information to other environments, including the earth as a whole.