On September 2nd, 2020, NOAA shared an overview of findings from a joint NOAA/Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) water quality assessment of the south Florida Reef Tract with the members of the main body of the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) Team.
This collaboration addresses NCCOS's priority areas on reducing coastal pollution impacts and minimizing use conflicts of coastal and marine resources. Key findings of the assessment included:
- Showing the role of coastal inlets and offshore sewage outfalls as important point sources
- Demonstrating that nutrient levels appear to be elevated compared to published coral threshold values
- Identifying significant correlations between water quality and benthic habitat data.
The south Florida Reef Tract lies three to four kilometers off southeast Florida, extending from Key West in the south up to St. Lucie inlet in the north. Roughly one third of Florida's residents live within this region, which attracts millions of visitors each year. The proximity of such a highly urbanized area can sometimes be detrimental to the coral reefs.
The project, extending from Biscayne Bay to the St. Lucie Inlet, uses NOAA NCCOS and partner resources to conduct a water quality program collecting monitoring data along the reef tract. The project is also exploring relationships between biological data (benthic cover, coral disease) and water quality to better understand cause and effect between land-based pollutants and reef health.
This assessment was published in NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS #271.
Left to right (below), examples of the animal diversity found along the southeast Florida reef tract. Credit FL DEP.