Feb 20, 2024 - News

🪸 Keys reefs devastated

Mission: Iconic Reefs field team member Cate Gelston assesses the health of coral reef communities in Florida. Photo: Ben Edmonds/NOAA

Mission: Iconic Reefs field team member Cate Gelston assesses the health of coral reef communities in Florida. Photo: Ben Edmonds/NOAA

A new survey of five Florida Keys' coral reefs shows extensive damage from a long-lasting and severe marine heat wave last year, Axios Generate's Andrew Freedman writes.

Why it matters: Corals are havens for biodiversity, providing shelter for over 25% of ocean animals, and they are major drivers of fishing and tourism revenue. Increasingly, climate change is threatening their viability.

The details: The preliminary results show that less than 22% of the approximately 1,500 staghorn coral surveyed are still alive.

  • Of the five reefs surveyed by NOAA's Mission: Iconic Reefs program and the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, only the two most northern ones, Carysfort Reef and Horseshoe Reef, had any living staghorn coral.
  • And of those surveyed, live elkhorn coral was only found at three sites.
  • No living staghorn or elkhorn corals were found at sample areas surveyed at Looe Key Reef, located in the lower Florida Keys, NOAA stated in a release.

Keep reading: Scientists' efforts to save coral reefs

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