Coral Barrier Reef
Paralleling Southeast Florida, just a few miles offshore, lies the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. Much of the reef tract occurs in a spur and groove formation (ridges and channels), with approximately 6,000 patch reefs scattered along inshore waters. Approximately 150 miles of Florida’s Coral Reef lies within the waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which protects 45 species of hard coral, including seven federally protected species. The hard-bottom structure of the reef provides hiding holes and ledges for hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates, while the corals, sponges, and calcareous and fleshy algae that make up the living veneer of the reef provide both habitat and food.