The Florida Reef Resilience Program grew from a unique partnership created in 2004, linking Australia’s renowned Great Barrier Reef and the United States’ beautiful Florida Reef system. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection joined with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in a cooperative effort. The goal was to improve coral reef resilience—the ability to recover after disturbance—and to ensure the long-term sustainability of coral reefs. Since both the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park manage beautiful, abundant coral reefs that face similar challenges, the partnership was a natural fit for an exchange of knowledge, and the advancement of science related to coral reef.
From that beginning, the Florida Reef Resilience Program was born in 2005, spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy. We brought to the program our organization’s experience in resilience-based coral reef science and conservation in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. FRRP is one component of the Conservancy’s international Reef Resilience Network, which brings together managers from around the world and strengthens their ability to protect and manage coral reefs.
The Florida Reef Resilience Program is the largest coordinated coral condition monitoring program in the world. The program brings together more than a dozen federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations and university partners to improve and sustain the health of Florida’s coral reefs and the industries that depend on them.
It makes sense that the largest monitoring program would be headquartered in our state, since the Florida Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the continental United States. It spans 358 miles in Southeast Florida, from the Dry Tortugas off Key West, north to Martin County. The Florida Reef is home to several coral species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
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Florida Keys coral and fish. ©Jiangang Luo
Throughout the Florida program’s history, we have worked together with our partners in four main program areas:
- Disturbance Response Monitoring–Collecting and analyzing data on the health of corals, like coral bleaching, this project was developed to monitor shallow coral reefs from the Dry Tortugas to Martin County during times of peak thermal stress.
- Human Dimensions of Reef Resilience–Working with the reef user community and university scientists to understand how Florida’s reefs are being used, this project evaluates the impacts of changing reef conditions on recreational and commercial reef users and the economy.
- Communications and Outreach–Providing relevant information to the media, natural resource management advisory bodies and other interested groups, this project leads and contributes to peer-reviewed scientific publications and maintains a robust FRRP website.
- Supporting Coral Reef Management and Sustainable Uses–Using technical information from the Disturbance Response Monitoring and Human Dimensions of Reef Resilience teams, this project informs the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s ongoing regulatory review process and the Our Florida Reefs working groups from Miami through Martin County.
“All of the FRRP partners share the vision of beautiful and productive coral reefs, that are healthy and sustainable for all reef inhabitants, as well as for the recreational and commercial industries which rely on them,” said Chris Bergh, the Conservancy’s South Florida conservation director.
* FRRP Program Partners:
The Nature Conservancy
Biscayne National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida Institute of Technology
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Mote Marine Laboratory
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Nova Southeastern University
Palm Beach County
Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of South Florida Institute for Marine Remote Sensing