|TROPICAL CORAL REEFS
SUBSTRATE: Limestone base created by skeletal deposits
of dead corals and coralline algae.
forest-like structures on continental margin seaward of larger islands
of the Florida Keys; patch reefssmaller,
roughly circular structures in waters less than 10 meters deep.
VEGETATION / ALGAE: Microscopic algae live symbiotically
in outer parts of coral polyps (i.e., coral bodies); calcareous
algae also live among the corals and secrete thin layers of limestone;
reefs are often closely associated with adjacent sea grass beds.
FAUNA: Over 60 species and subspecies of corals and
algae; hundreds of fish and invertebrate species; numerous species
of commercial and recreational value, including spiny lobster,
grouper, snapper, parrotfish, and butterfly fish. Many reef
species have specialized food requirements, narrow niches, and complex
PROCESSES / DYNAMICS / ABIOTIC FACTORS: Highly transparent,
warm, relatively nutrient-poor waters are favorable; terrestrial
vegetation, including mangroves along shoreline, filters sediments,
organic debris, and nutrients.
HUMAN IMPACTS: Nutrient pollution is a serious problem,
as are impacts from hurricanes, ship groundings, certain fishing
practices, and excessive recreational use; as long as nutrient levels
remain favorable, communities may have the potential to recover.
ANIMALS AND PLANTS NATIVE TO ECOSYSTEM: List of selectable
animals and plants
native to the Coral Reefs ecosystem, with detailed descriptions
and pictures on each.