Test Your Habitat IQ

 

 

NOAA has chosen two sites in the Southeast and Caribbean Region as the next Habitat Focus Areas under NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint

Puerto RIco’s Northeast Reserves
and Culebra Island

 

Florida’s Biscayne Bay

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats are home to coastal forests, wetlands, a bioluminescent lagoon, seagrass beds, shallow and deep coral reefs, and miles of pristine beaches. Leatherback sea turtles nest on the beaches, while manatees, green and hawksbill turtles, and bottlenose dolphins are frequently sighted. A variety of coral species—including those protected under the Endangered Species Act—can be found along with diverse fish species that depend on these valuable habitats. This area is also of great economic value, thanks to thriving tourism, seven marinas, and recreational and commercial fisheries.

Threats

The Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island encompass a combination of urban and protected lands. This lush region has experienced significant decline in coastal and marine habitats, such as mangrove, coral, and seagrass. This is due largely to unsustainable coastal development and recreational and commercial uses, land-based sources of pollution, and climate change impacts such as rising sea surface temperatures.

NOAA will protect and restore coastal habitats and resources within the Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island through conservation projects, management based monitoring and research, and training and
education programs.

Partners

NOAA, partners, and local communities are already engaged in multiple projects in this new Habitat Focus Area. Our partners include:

  • Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources
  • Puerto Rico Sea Grant
  • Caribbean Fishery Management Council
  • Caribbean Coastal Ocean Observing System
 

Scientists and resource managers worry that
Biscayne Bay may reach a “tipping point” toward conditions where nutrients that support these dense algae growths would be abundant and the decay of the algae will deplete the shallow waters of oxygen. The possible accompanying loss of seagrass cover may be impossible to halt or reverse.

We’ve only recently learned the extent of the threats posed by algal blooms. The recent appearance of expansive algal blooms in the southern, most pristine, part of the Bay is troubling. Water quality monitoring, always somewhat limited and patchy, has declined. Further investigations into the algal blooms and the water quality conditions that promote these blooms are needed and should be accompanied by efforts to reduce nutrient inputs wherever possible.

Bay fishery and protected species’ nurseries, as well as recreational activities within the bay and on the adjacent reef, depend upon clean, clear waters. Tourism and recreational activities are major industries and sources of revenues, jobs, and income for the Biscayne Bay area, and both are directly and indirectly influenced by the ecological health of the bay.

Partners

NOAA has considerable involvement in Biscayne Bay research and conservation. We’ve partnered with other federal, state, and local agencies in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project: an effort to restore south Florida ecosystems, including coastal waters. NOAA also works with Biscayne National Park and Miami-Dade County to monitor water quality, physical, and biological parameters in Biscayne Bay.

Among our other partners:
  • Biscayne Bay Regional Restoration and Coordination Team
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Tropical Audubon Society
  • Clean Water Action
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • University of Miami
  • Florida International University