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Restoring Florida's Iconic Coral Reefs

December 07, 2023

Mission: Iconic Reefs is an effort to protect and restore seven key reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Tan corals fanning out with fish swimming among them The branches of fast-growing elkhorn coral provide important habitat for fish. Populations of this iconic coral have declined across the Caribbean due to disease, bleaching and storms. Credit: NOAA

Coral reefs provide crucial habitat and storm protection and economic benefits as destinations for diving, fishing, and boating. Often referred to as the "rainforests of the sea," they're essential in terms of species diversity and for the ecosystem services that they provide to humans. The Barrier Coral reef spanning the Florida Keys is the only barrier reef in the continental United States and is vital to the ecosystems and communities of Southern Florida. But in recent decades, mostly due to climate change, the reef has been decimated. This year, a marine heat wave caused extremely high ocean temperatures and a coral bleaching event in and around Florida. When temperatures are high for too long, bleached corals can starve to death. 

In this episode, we'll hear from Jennifer Moore, a threatened coral recovery coordinator in NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources division. She is co-lead of Mission: Iconic Reefs, the effort underway to protect and restore seven key reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

There are many stressors and threats to coral reefs related to climate change—such as coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and disease. In response, NOAA and a community of partners launched Mission: Iconic Reefs. It's a reef-restoration effort to grow and outplant important coral species at seven iconic reef sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Tune into the podcast as Jennifer describes the essential role that corals play in their environment, the impacts of climate change on corals, and the coral restoration work happening in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.