Climate Change (Updated 5/1/2010)
Global climate is changing due to human activities. We anticipate increased occurrences of worldwide mass coral bleaching events if human carbon footprints remain at current levels. How these climate change impacts will cascade through the ecosystem remains questionable because other components of the marine ecosystem (e.g., fishes, invertebrates, seagrass, algae, etc.) are less predictable.
Coral Reef Management (Updated 5/1/2010)
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary) includes 1,400 km2 of coral reefs in several distinct habitats. Human activities, such as boat and ship groundings, accumulation of debris, and improper anchoring cause extensive damage to reefs. In addition, a range of anthropogenic and natural stresses affect reef-building corals and associated organisms. The collective effects of damage and stresses are manifested as decreases in coral cover and species diversity and increases in coral diseases and coral bleaching in the Sanctuary. How much these changes in coral reef health are driven by anthropogenic factors that could be ameliorated by management actions are not known, due in part to the poor understanding of the population dynamics of reef building species.
Habitat Protection and Management (Updated 5/1/2010)
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary) seascape has a complex, yet intimately connected set of plant and animal communities. Although coral resources are a subject of intense research, other habitat types are critical components of the overarching coral reef ecosystem; hard-bottom, seagrass, algal, and mangrove habitats all share a critical role in sustaining our marine ecosystem health and function.
Marine Zoning Effectiveness (Updated 5/1/2010)
Marine zones are an integral tool to resource management for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary). All zone types implemented to manage a certain aspect of use or resource protection need to be (re)evaluated to determine if the zone type and associated regulations are producing the expected results for the resource and the user groups affected by the associated protection strategy.
Physical Oceanography (Updated 5/1/2010)
There is a need to further develop the Florida Keys circulation model in order to better understand regional oceanographic connectivity at varying spatial and temporal scales.
Population Dynamics of Fin Fish (Updated 5/1/2010)
Fish stocks in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary) are under steadily increasing fishing pressure. There is insufficient information on the habitat utilization of both food fish and "non-food" fish at the spatial and temporal scales needed to protect ecosystem services within the Sanctuary.
Water Quality (Updated 5/1/2010)
Nutrient loading, storm water, and other pollution discharges to the waters of the Florida Keys can result in changes of ecosystem structure and function that cascade throughout the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary).