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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Super Bowl may be over but its environmental mission to save Florida’s coral reefs is still underway.

The 100 Yards of Hope coral reef restoration project honors the NFL’s 100th season and America’s military veterans.

READ MORE: Super Bowl LV NFL Green Week Stretches Into South Florida With Coral Reef Restoration Project

Veteran divers working alongside scientists from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) are restoring a football field-length stretch of coral reef in the waters off Key Biscayne. This initiative to restore “Rainbow Reef” includes restoring the wider ecosystem with sea urchins, sponges and other key organisms as well as removing invasive species such as lionfish.

Long-spine sea urchins. (Source: Ocean Research Alliance)

Long-spine sea urchins are vital to coral reefs to continue to thrive but their population was devastated by a nearly complete mortality event that swept through the Caribbean in 1982. Sea urchins used to be plentiful, with about 3 to 5 per square meter, but now it is rare to see more than a single urchin on Florida’s Coral Reef today.

READ MORE: Report: Florida’s Coral Reefs Among Most Damaged In U.S.

Besides grazing on algae, which can inhibit coral settlement and growth, urchins produce vast amounts of eggs and larvae, providing food for other reef organisms.

This week, 150 sea urchins were relocated to Rainbow Reef in an effort to improve the population of the reef and also help the sea urchin population grow.


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