Florida Keys

photo of a sponge and coral

Click on individual links below to learn more about the immediate science needs for critical management issues. For a full list of management issues and science needs, please review the FKNMS Management Plan, and the FKNMS Science Plan. To contact us about the science needs described below, contact the Sanctuary Research Coordinators.   

  • Climate Change

    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 affect or cascade through the different components of the marine ecosystem is not fully known or predictable.(Updated 12/1/2014)

  • Coral Reef Management

    The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary) includes 1,400 km2 of coral reefs and several other distinct habitats. Human activities, such as boat and ship groundings, accumulation of marine debris, and improper anchoring cause extensive physical damage to reefs. In addition, a range of anthropogenic and natural stresses affect reef-building corals and associated organisms. The collective effects of physical 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, and what levels of climate change, fishing pressure, habitat loss, and land based sources of pollution will be realized over the next three decades. (Updated 12/1/2014)

  • Habitat Protection and Management 

    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.(Updated 12/1/2014)

  • Marine Zone Effectiveness 

    Marine zones are an integral resource management tool 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.(Updated 12/2/2014)

  • Physical Oceanography 

    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.(Updated 12/2/2014)

  • Population Dynamics of Fin Fish 

    Fish stocks in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS or Sanctuary) were serially overfished during the last four decades and are under steadily increasing fishing pressure as the human population of south Florida and the Florida Keys continues to increase. There is insufficient information on the habitat utilization, migration, and spawning aggregation behavior of both food fish and "non-food" fish at the spatial and temporal scales needed to protect ecosystem services within the Sanctuary.(Updated 12/2/2014)

  • Water Quality 

    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). (Updated 12/2/2014)