Being unique in that it is the only state with shallow coral reef formations that lie near its coast, Florida is a paradise with fascinating reefs. Coming into existence 10,000 years ago due to rising sea levels from the last Ice Age, Florida’s Coral Reef System is similar to a Barrier Reef.

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The Florida Reef Tract consists of more than 45 species of stony corals and 35 species of Octocorals. Also, more than 70 marine sponges can be found along the coral reef tract in Florida, which are very important to the coral reef community.

The History of Florida’s Reefs: Unlike now, Florida’s reefs used to be abundant with brain, star, and Elkhorn. Brain Coral is a unique species that resembles the human brain due to its waves and dome shape. Star Coral is dome shaped with a star pattern on it. Elkhorn has projections that resemble the antlers of Elkhorn.

Octocorals are specifically abundant in Florida, with an appearance that looks like strange trees or shrubs. Common Octocorals that are found in Florida include sea fans and sea whips. Sea Fans have fans that look like curtains and flutter in ocean currents. Sea Whips have feathery branches, spreading out in all directions.

Where to find Florida’s Coral Reef: Lying six miles off the Florida Keys Coast, Florida’s Coral Reef is North America’s only Barrier Reef System. Starting in Miami and ending in Dry Tortugas, Florida’s Reef is considered to be the third longest in the world.

The Significance of Florida’s Reef: Florida’s Reefs are the only actual reefs in the waters of the U.S. The Reef itself contains over one hundred species of fish and over 80 percent of all of the Coral Reef Species in the Tropical Atlantic’s waters.

Marine Life: The Corals in Florida help and protect many of its unique and beautiful marine life. Its home to over 1000 marine fish and 200 freshwater fish. Some examples of plant species in Florida’s Waters include Hydrilla; a perennial herb, and water-hyacinth; a floating plant. Many fascinating marine animals can also be found in Florida’s waters. Manatees, Alligators, and Sea Turtles are just a few.

Conservation: Many Freshwater programs are designed to help and maintain Florida’s Corals and Marine Life. The Aquatic Plant Management Program designs and funds invasive non-native aquatic plant control efforts in Florida’s waters. Fish Management Areas are ponds, lakes, or bodies of water that are established for managing freshwater fish. Aquatic Habitat Restoration is also common in Florida, which preserves wild habitat in Florida for the well-being of fish and other aquatic wildlife. Wetland Habitat is determined to provide Florida’s Waters with the greatest quantity and highest quality of habitat.

How You Can Help Florida’s Waters: Outdoor Recreation is a great way to conserve Florida’s waters and marine life. Boating, Diving, and Pond Management are just a few creative ways to get involved with Outdoor Recreation. Wildlife Assistance is another way to help Florida’s Marine Life, such as knowing what to do if an animal is injured. Wildlife Lighting is designed to educate people on ways to minimize impacts to wildlife with lighting methods. Finally, volunteering is another great way to help. Volunteers consist of interns, Ridge Rangers, and more.

Viewing Florida’s Marine Life: Florida consists of many programs that allow people to view its wildlife. Florida Manatee is a program where individuals can view and learn about manatee. Florida also has the same program for sea turtles and sea birds. Throughout the year, different species of Florida’s wildlife are abundant in different seasons.  Be sure to be knowledgeable about the marine Life you would like to see when visiting the state.

Whether you choose to head to Miami or Dry Tortugas, Florida’s Coral Reef System is one of the longest in the world, and is rich with Marine Life. Diverse, gorgeous, and intricate, the Reef is visited by many. Being the only Reef System in North America, Florida’s Reef is especially unique. View its vast array of tropical fish and say hello to the Manatees in Florida’s waters. A tropical paradise, Florida is a known host to a great Reef System. Many Research and Conservation programs are done in Florida to protect and learn about its vast Reef System. Programs are also offered to the public for learning about the species that exist in the reef, such as Florida’s unique Octocorals. There are also many ways to spot the Reef System on your own; such as boating or scuba diving. Visitors come from all over the globe to view the Reef System, and many stay at unique sites that the state offers, such as Dry Tortugas National Park. Florida is a great vacation spot for scientists, researchers, or coral-reef lovers due to the Reef that it is home to.