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Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys
The Florida Coral Reef is the largest living coral reef in North America and third largest in the world, the largest being the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The second largest is the Belizian barrier reef. All of these reefs are created by a community of organisms which produce calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Together these coral animals use their calcium carbonate to build an underwater city over the course of thousands of years. The reef structure is home to thousands of fish, lobsters, jellyfish and other species found nowhere else.
Coral reefs are vulnerable to environmental changes, including the impact of human activities. Therefore, the coral reef deserves special protection for it's intrinsic natural value. Unfortunately, coral reefs are suffering globally. Nearly 27 percent are already gone, and if current trends persist, another two-thirds will be lost within the next 30 years. Marine debris, anchor damage, accidental boat groundings and other intrusions are some common causes of reef deterioration. The most visible and familiar physical damage results from the carelessness or, on occasion, the deliberate recklessness of ship captains, boaters, divers, fishermen, snorkelers and beachgoers. In the period between 1980 and 1993, approximately 500 vessels were reported aground in the Looe Key and Key Largo Sanctuaries. But in the one year between July 1993 and June 1994, 500 groundings were documented in thScuba Divinge Florida Keys NMS. Over 19 acres of coral reef habitat have been damaged or destroyed by ship groundings. Boat propellers have damaged over 30,000 acres of sea grasses.Grouper