There may be just 2% of Coral Reefs around Florida remaining

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A new report sounds an alarm on challenges with the nation’s ecosystem including a major decline in coral reefs around Florida.

According to a study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The University of Maryland, the reefs off heavily populated Florida are among the most damaged, with as little as 2% of the coral reefs remaining.

The first of its kind report says human activity and climate change are mostly to blame for the deteriorating of reefs around the U.S. and its territories.

(Courtesy: Florida Keys News Bureau)

The report used data collected between 2012 and 2018 classified regions as “very good,” “good,” “fair,” “impaired,” and “critical.”

While the report says the condition of most of the coral reefs in the U.S. is “fair,” researchers say they continue to be vulnerable. It stated that sewage, lawn chemicals and other pollutants that flow into the oceans pose potentially catastrophic threats to their survival. That threat is most pronounced in waters off South Florida, from the Keys to north of Palm Beach.

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“It shouldn’t be surprising. There’s an immense population of people living in close proximity to those reefs,” said Jennifer Koss, the director of NOAA’s coral reef conservation program. But even in more remote oceans where human interaction is limited, coral reefs remain under threat because of climate change, which has caused oceans to warm and make some coastal areas inhospitable to delicate coral.

Reefs in American Samoa and the most remote areas of the Pacific were in “good condition.” Florida reefs were said to be in “impaired” condition.

(Courtesy: Florida Keys News Bureau)

Scientists say coral reefs are essential to the health of the world’s oceans.

NOAA says coral reefs have an economic impact of more than $3-billion-dollars annually thanks to industries like tourism and fishing and reefs also serve as a natural barrier to storm surges during hurricanes.

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