​​​​Natural Reefs​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
Broward County has 24 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. Coral reefs follow the coast offshore and are part of the Florida Reef Tract. The Florida Reef Tract extends from the Dry Tortugas to the St. Lucie Inlet, nearly 360 linear miles, making it the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world. Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have coral reefs close to the coast.  

Broward County’s reef tract is divided into the Inner Reef, ranging from 20-30 feet in depth, the Middle Reef, ranging from 40-60 feet in depth and the Outer Reef, ranging from 50-100 feet in depth. This diverse range of reef habitat allow for an abundance of marine organisms to flourish. As a result, many snorkelers, divers and anglers enjoy the waters off Broward County.  
These reef tracts are important as they are the foundation for the creation of marine habitat. Additionally, these reef tracts serve as a buffer to protect the shoreline from storm waves which cause beach erosion along with damage to the upland infrastructure (buildings and roads). The hard structure of the coral reef is mainly composed of the skeletons of stony corals. Stony corals are marine invertebrates, live organisms, and as they grow they form large mounds of calcium carbonate (the coral ‘skeleton’) that will eventually become harder substrate for other organisms, such as soft corals, sponges, algae, to settle on and grow. This is a gradual process as stony corals grow slowly, typically only 0.2 to 0.8 inches (0.5 to 2 centimeters) a year. The oldest and largest known coral colony in Broward County’s began its life in 1694 making it more than 300 years old, growing up to 15 feet in length and 9 feet high. 

​​To help protect our coral reefs, the state of Florida passed the Florida’s Coral Reef Protection Act (CRPA) in 2009, making it illegal to anchor or otherwise damage coral reefs. The CRPA also authorized the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to pursue fines and compensations for any damage to the reefs. The Broward County Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division (EPCRD) is committed to ensuring that our marine resources are maintained in good condition by creating, assisting or managing various programs.


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