On Florida Keys and the Florida Reef Tract

George S. Garrett garettg at mail.state.fl.us
Thu Oct 8 09:07:56 EDT 1998

Menchie Ablan:

I am aware of the good work of ReefBase.  It is much appreciated.

To answer  your question, there is a difference between the "Florida Keys" and the "Florida Reef Tract" (perhaps better described as the Florida Keys Reef Tract).  Essentially, the Florida Keys are and emergent portion of an ancient reef environment (100,000 years) which extends south and westward from the southeastern tip of Florida approximately 200 km (320 km if you include the Marquesas and Dry Tortugas National Park - 60 and 120 km to the west of Key West) .  Geologically, the islands are comprised of two carbonate formations, The Miami Oolite formation and the Key Largo Limestone formation.  The Key Largo formation extends the length of the Keys to the Tortugas.  However, the Miami formation overlies the Keys Largo formation in the area we call the Lower Florida Keys (approximately the last 48 km of the connected islands - see next).  The Keys form a crescent shaped archipelago of some 200-300 islands.  The core of the archipelago, some 45 islands, are connected to the mainland of Florida by 43 bridges.  They are the islands upon which we live. Between the Keys and mainland Florida lies Florida Bay and to the South, the Florida Keys Reef Tract.

The Florida Keys Reef Tract is the living reef environment that we see today and lies approximately 7-9 km south of the Keys and parallels the island archipelago.  It is bounded on the south side by the Straights of Florida and the Gulf Stream.  The emergent ancient reef and the existing living reef lie parallel to one another as a result of the changes in sea level that have occurred over the past 100,000 years and because the Continental Shelf slopes gently south and westward in this area.  Because Florida in general has a very low lying topography, Florida has existed in a variation of its current emergent state or a largely submerged state during its recent geologic history.

I might note; the Florida Keys would hardly rank with some of the rapid evolutionary environments of say the Galapagos, but they comprise a wonderful mix of tropical Caribbean flora and temperate North American fauna and exhibit a significant number of endemic species or sub-species.  A very interesting place to work.

-----Original Message-----
From:	Menchie Ablan [SMTP:M.ABLAN at CGIAR.ORG]
Sent:	Thursday, October 08, 1998 3:37 AM
To:	George S. Garrett
Subject:	On Florida Keys and the Florida Reef Tract

Dear George,

Hi!  I thought maybe you would be the person to ask regarding the difference 
between the terms Florida Keys and Florida Reef Tract.  ReefBase, a global 
database on coral reefs, records information on a wide range of coral reef 
information (e.g. ecology, harvest, mariculture, socioeconomics, stresses, 
coastal tourism and management).  We have been encountering both these terms 
in the literature but have some difficulty distinguishing one term from the 
other.  Maybe you can give us some insight into this.

Your help  will be very much appreciated.


Menchie Ablan
International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management
P.O. Box 2631, 0718 Makati City, Philippines
Fax:      63-2-8163183
Ph:  63-2-8180466 ext 315

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