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WHAT IS ECOSYSTEM?

Ecosystems vary in size. They can be as small as a fallen log or as large as the Earth itself. Everything in the natural world is connected. Every group of living and nonliving things interacting with each other can be considered as an ecosystem. Within all species, individuals interact with each other - feeding together, mating together, and living together. There is an immense diversity of individual species on the planet, so is there a rich diversity of ecosystems.

WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY?

Biodiversity includes genetic variation within species, the variety of species in an area, and the variety of habitat types within a landscape.

Biodiversity is the shortened form of two words "biological" and "diversity." It refers to all the variety of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms) as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live.

Biodiversity encompasses all living creatures, their relationship to each other and their environment. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms in a particular place. These living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems". Biodiversity on earth and performing all manner of biological functions, including photosynthesis, respiration, decomposition, nitrogen fixation and denitrification.

Biomes are the major regional groupings of plants and animals discernible at a global scale. Their distribution patterns are strongly correlated with regional climate patterns and identified according to the climax vegetation type. However, a biome is composed not only of the climax vegetation, but also of associated successional communities, persistent subclimax communities, fauna, and soils.

Biomes are defined as "the world's major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment"

A biome is a large ecosystem where plants, animals, insects, and people live in a certain type of climate.The world contains many other biomes: grasslands, deserts, and mountains, to name a few. The plants and animals living in each are as different as their climates.There are many different kinds of plants and animals on the Earth, but only certain kinds are naturally found at any particular place. Plants and animals don't live in isolation, but they live together with other plants and animals in an interdependent group called an ecological community

 Physical things such as climate and geography determine what things can live in an area. Climate is the general weather of an area over a long period of time, including its seasonal changes. The climate of an area largely depends on its location on Earth. Areas close to the equator receive more direct sunlight than areas close to the poles. Therefore, areas closer to the equator are warmer year-round. Areas nearer the poles have warm, short summers and cold winters. Sometimes geography determines how much or how little rainfall an area will receive

To understand a world biome, you need to know:

  • What the climate of the region is like.
  • Where each biome is found and and what its geography is like.
  • The special adaptations of the vegetation.
  • The types of animals found in the biome and their physical and behavioral adaptations to their environment.

The marine biome

Marine regions cover about three-fourths of the Earth's surface and include oceans, coral reefs, and estuaries. Marine algae supply much of the world's oxygen supply and take in a huge amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The evaporation of the seawater provides rainwater for the land.

Oceans
The largest of all the ecosystems, oceans are very large bodies of water that dominate the Earth's surface. Like ponds and lakes, the ocean regions are separated into separate zones: intertidal, pelagic, abyssal, and benthic. All four zones have a great diversity of species.

Covering three quarters of the Earth's surface, oceans are as diverse as they are large. The open seas is an interesting and little understood world full of bizarre and fascinating creatures. This ecosystem is a self-containing world with a complex food chain and many organisms that have adapted to extreme and unusual conditions. The ocean is home to the smallest plankton and the largest creature on earth, the blue whale. Come explore the open seas with us! 

Coral reefs

What is a coral reef? Coral reefs have high biodiversity because they contain large numbers of different species. 

A reef is a coral community consisting of several thousand organisms living together. Although it looks like a dormant underwater bush, the reef is very much alive. Reefs grow very slowly over time. In fact, an inch of coral reef takes nearly 100 years to grow!

Coral reefs are widely distributed in warm shallow waters. They can be found as barriers along continents  fringing islands, and atolls. Naturally, the dominant organisms in coral reefs are corals. Corals are interesting since they consist of both algae (zooanthellae) and tissues of animal polyp. Since reef waters tend to be nutritionally poor, corals obtain nutrients through the algae via photosynthesis and also by extending tentacles to obtain plankton from the water. Besides corals, the fauna include several species of microorganisms, invertebrates, fishes, sea urchins, octopuses, and sea stars.

Coral reefs are warm, clear, shallow ocean habitats that are rich in life. The reef's massive structure is formed from coral polyps, tiny animals that live in colonies; when coral polyps die, they leave behind a hard, stony, branching structure made of limestone.

The coral provides shelter for many animals in this complex habitat, including sponges,  nudibranchs, fish (like Blacktip Reef Sharks, groupers, clown fish, eels, parrotfish, snapper, and scorpion fish), jellyfish, anemones, sea stars (including the destructive Crown of Thorns), crustaceans (like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters), turtles, sea snakes, snails, and mollusks (like octopuses, nautilus, and clams). Birds also feast on coral reef animals.

Types of Corals: There are two types of coral, hard coral and soft coral. Hard corals (like brain coral and elkhorn coral) have hard, limestone skeletons which form the basis of coral reefs. Soft corals (like sea fingers and sea whips) do not build reefs.

Where are Coral Reefs?: Coral reefs develop in shallow, warm water, usually near land, and mostly in the tropics; coral prefer temperatures between 70 and 85 ° F (21 - 30 °C). There are coral reefs off the eastern coast of Africa, off the southern coast of India, in the Red Sea, and off the coasts of northeast and northwest Australia and on to Polynesia. There are also coral reefs off the coast of Florida, USA, to the Caribbean, and down to Brazil.

Why do so many fish live near coral reefs?
Because of warm water and abundant food supply, coral reef communities are bustling with life. Reefs with their bush like shape offer many nooks and crannies for fish to hide in. Small fish can hide from big predators inside a coral reef. Because of this, many small tropical fish are found in coral reefs.

UPPER KEYS CORAL REEF                                                     

                              CORAL REEF  YOU TUBE                         

The Upper Keys Coral Reef is a dive conservation marine habitat. John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park was founded in 1960. The Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was created 1975. As a result, the reef has been protected. The reef is uniquely rich coral environment where the 600 species of tropical fish are numerous. This is a paradise for diver and snorkeler.

Florida is the only state in the continental United States to have coral reef formations near its coasts. The Florida reef tract is the most extensive living coral reef system in North American. The coral reef begins about 3 miles off-shore. This fantastic coral reef provides such a complete barrier against wave action and coastal erosion ( our sandy beach is under water at the reef ). Reefs are ecologically important ecosystems and have a high biodiversity. The reef is a complex intereaction of plants and animals.There are two types of corals,hard and soft coral. Hard corals are the core of the reef. It provides a habitat for countless inhabitants. It supplies them with an environment to carry out their daily functions.

The Everglades, Florida Bay, and Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys is an  ecosystems connected by surface and subsurface water movements. The South Florida hydroscape, is a series of ecosystems linked by hydrology in a region of intense human development and profound modifications to the natural environment.


 

THE CORAL REEF SYSTEM

The reef is effected by human and environmental factors .Some of these factors are biological competition, predation, disease, pollutants, temperature,salinity variation,and water clarity. The coral becomes sick, unhealthy and dies. The dead coral turns white, this process is called bleaching.

  • Poor water quality due to sewage, fertilizer, and gas and oil spills -- causing algae to grow in the corals.
  • Direct damage to coral from Human and natural factors
  • Over harvesting of fish
  • In the Keys, reduced fresh water flow from the main land Florida).
  • Coral-killing diseases; some scientists believe dust carried on the wind from Africa, which settles on the coral and deposits a fungus, is believed to affect sea fans especially hard.
  • Rise in sea levels


TYPES OF CORAL FOUND ON THE UPPER KEYS CORAL REEF  A LOOK AT CORALS  

  • STAGHORN CORAL
  • ELKHORN CORAL
  • BRAIN CORAL
  • STAR CORAL
  • PILLAR CORAL
  • BOULDER CORAL
  • FIRE CORAL
  • LEAFT STINGING CORAL

      MOLASSES REEF

      MOLASSES TOWER

       KEY LARGO

    SOFT CORAL ** GORGONIANS

    These coral are mistaken for plants. They are perimently attached to the bottom. But are flexible and move freely with the current and aid in the feeding web. From O feet to 30 feet the vertical corals and soft corals are in abundance. At 30 feet to 45 feet Large barrel sponges and tube sponges are abundant. With the abundance of sponges, green turtles and hawksbill turtles, as well as midnight parrotfish are often seen. Going down to 45 to 50 feet sponges and sea fans clearly dominate the sea floor. With the occasional giant heads or mounds of star coral.

  • SEA FAN CORAL
  • SEA ROD CORAL
  • SEA WHIP CORAL
  • SEA FEATHER CORAL

      SailingDIVE SITES OFF THE FLORIDA KEYS

      GRECIAN ROCKS

         Mile Marker: 106 Location: N 25 deg 06.70 min W 80 deg 18.55 min Markers: Mooring Buoys G1-G12; Wooden Marker Depth Range: 3 to 35 feet Grecian Rocks is a crescent-shaped patch reef located just south-southwest of Key Largo Dry Rocks and is marked by a wooden marker and 12 mooring buoys designated with the letter "G". The reef itself is half a mile long, running from north to south, and 150 yards wide. Grecian Rocks is a very interesting dive site because similar to that of most outer bank reefs in the area.Divers can explore the spur and groove system that is covered by a large variety of corals.Divers can enjoy the calm conditions of this inshore reefs. In the deep areas of Greican Rocks are boulders of giant star coral, star coral, starlet coral, and brain coral.Sea fans and a variety of sponges are abundent.It is home to stoplight parrotfish, princess parrotfish, queen parrotfish, and blue parrotfish, and the great barracuda.There is an old Spanish cannon 75 feet south of this area. At shallower waters, branching corals become more and abundant until they are completely dominate at the reef crest. Giant golden-brown elkhorn coral cover the reef crest.Grecian Rocks is the shallowest of all the reefs in the Upper Keys and is exposed at low tide.Behind the reef is a large white sand plateau that is partially overgrown by turtle grass.The plateau is only 3 to 6 feet deep and makes it ideal for snorkeling.

      The beautiful Florida Keys has the only living Coral Reef in the continental United States. It is your's for swimming, scuba, snorkel or a glass bottom boat tour. The reef starts just off Miami and continues to the dry Tortugas. For almost 200 miles,the Florida Keys strech across shallow, tropical waters. The Coral reef is a marine habitat that will dazzle you..

      The reef ecosystem is of great complexity.There are 40 species of coral that inhabit the reef, 650 fish species, assortment of sponges and other invertebrate life.

      Most coral reef coloies form in water at least 20 feet deep.Because the upper keys are high and generally long with few channels for water to flow through and impede coral growth. That is one reason there are many outer reefs in the Upper Keys.Also the Florida Current supplies the Atlantic side of the Keys with a constant flow of tropical waters.

      The Upper Keys are composed of a 120,000 year old fossil reef formation of Key Largo Limestone.

      Stony corals are the major reef architects. Polyps, the living portion of the coral, extract calcium from seawater and combine it with carbon dioxide to construct the elaborate limestone skeletons that form the reef backbone. Coral polyps are united into colonies. An individual colony grows one-half to seven inches a year, depending on the species. Corals start life as free-living larvae that later settle on the sea floor and develop into massive, sedentary limestone formations. 


          Coral reefs consist of many species of corals. Corals are made up of tiny organisms called polyps. A polyp is made up or two cell layers: the epidermis and the gastrodermis. The non-tissue layer between the gastrodermis and the epidermis is called the mesoglea. The polyp contains mesentery filaments, which contain nematocysts used in food capture, a pharynx, endothecal dissepiments (horizontal layers of skeletal material) and the columella (the central axis of the corallite found below the mouth). The corallite is the part of the skeleton deposited by one polyp. The skeletal wall around each polyp is called the theca. Other structures include the calice (the upper opening of the corallite), the coenosarc (the coral tissue that stretches over the surface of the coral between the polyps), the coenosteum (the skeletal material around the corallites), and the corallum, which is the skeleton of the coral. The coral anatomy also includes calcareous plate-like structure known as septa. The septa radiate from the wall to the center of the corallite. There are two types of septa: insert septa which lie below the corallite wall and exsert septa which protrude above the corallite wall. Corals are of two types: perforate and imperforate. Perforate corals have porous skeletons with connections between the polyps through the skeleton. Imperforate corals have solid skeletons. Many corals have different growth forms. They can be plocoid as in Tubastrea coccinea (orange cup coral) and Favia fragum (golf ball coral). They can also be meandroid in which corallites form a series within the same walls, as in the species Dendrogyra cylindrus (pillar coral). Other growth forms include cocoid, spherical shaped and phalecoid, as in Eusmilia fastigiata. 

      • Fact: The oldest ecosystems on Earth are the coral reefs.
      • Fact: The largest living structure on the planet are coral reefs. 
      • Fact: Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface.
      • Fact: Coral Reefs are home to 25% of all marine fish species.
      • Fact: 500 million people rely on coral reefs for their food and livelihoods.
      • Fact: Coral reefs form natural barriers that protect shorelines from the eroding forces of the sea.
      • Fact: Without the Keys Coral Reef track, parts of Florida would be under water.
      • Fact: Corals' have been used in the treatment of cancer,HIV,cardiovascular diseases,ulcers and used for human bone grafts.  
      • Fact: Coral reefs provide $375 billion per year around the world in goods and services.
      • Fact: At the present rate of destruction, 70% of the world's coral reefs will be destroyed by the year 2050.


      The Coral Reefs in the Key Largo area have many excellent dive spots. These patch reefs can be spotted from the surface or by putting your head in the water and trolling from behind a boat. Look for a spot  that has dense coral growth patterns and offers a variety of terrains.

       

    • CORAL REEF  YOU TUBE

        01. Blue Tang
        02. Stoplight Parrotfish
        03. Yellowtail Snapper
        04. Bluehead
        05. Sergeant Major
        06. Bicolor Damselfish
        07. French Grunt
        08. Bluestriped Grunt
        09. Ocean Surgeonfish
        10. Foureye Butterflyfish


       

      Key Largo is known as the "Diving Capital of the World" while Islamorada is called the "Sport Fishing Capital".

      Estuaries areas where freshwater streams or rivers merge with the ocean. This mixing of waters with such different salt concentrations creates a very interesting and unique ecosystem. Microflora like algae, and macroflora, such as seaweeds, marsh grasses, and mangrove trees (only in the tropics), can be found here. Estuaries support a diverse fauna, including a variety of worms, oysters, crabs, and waterfowl.

      Biosphere is a relatively thin zone of air, soil, and water that ranges from about 10 kilometers above ground into the atmosphere to the deepest ocean. The biosphere is the life zone of the Earth and includes all living organisms, including man, and all organic matter that has not yet decomposed. The biosphere is interconnected with three other spheres of the physical environment:The biosphere is the biological component of earth systems, which also include the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The biosphere serves as an interface between the spheres enabling  water to move between the hydrosphere, lithosphere and atmosphere as is accomplished by plant transpiration. Most of the planet's life is found from three meters below the ground to thirty meters above it and in the top 200 meters of the oceans and seas.

       

      Lithosphere includes the crust and the uppermost mantle which is joined to the crust across the mantle. The lithosphere is the solid, rocky crust covering entire planet. This crust is inorganic and is composed of minerals. It covers the entire surface of the earth from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.The Earth's lithosphere is a dynamic area, with processes such as erosion, earthquakes, and plate tectonics. The crust is made of many types of rocks and hundreds of minerals. These rocks and minerals are made from just 8 elements: Oxygen (46.6%), Silicon (27.72%), Aluminum (8.13%), Iron (5.00%), Calcium (3.63%), Sodium (2.83%), Potassium (2.70%), and Magnesium (2.09%). The oceanic crust has more Silicon, Oxygen, and Magnesium. The continental crust has more Silicon and Aluminum.

      Hydrosphere is often called the "water sphere" as it includes all the earth's water found in streams, lakes, the soil, groundwater, and in the air.The hydrosphere includes all water at or near the Earth's surface. Water is very important to a number of biological and geological processes. The hydrologic cycle is the continuous recycling of water between the oceans and atmosphere.  In one respect, planet Earth is a misnomer in that 71% of the earth is covered by water and only 29% is terra firma.

      Atmosphere  The envelope of gases that surrounds the Earth; consists largely of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%).Water is transferred between the hydrosphere and biosphere by evaporation and precipitation. Energy is also exchanged in this process.

    • The geography and natural resources of the Florida Keys make them among the most diverse of ecosystems in North America. The chain of over 1,700 islands that make up the archipelago of the Keys extends approximately 220 miles southwest along the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. As recently as 125,000 years ago, the islands themselves were actually part of a submerged coral reef. Today the exposed limestone bedrock supports a diverse sampling of plants and animals, including unique hardwood HAMMOCKS, numerous species of palms and more types of trees than can be found in all of Europe.

      Most people who VACATION  KEY LARGO, come to see our beautiful underwater CORAL REEF  and go DEEP SEA FISHING. Go to our backdoor and you enter one of the most diverse and unique eco systems in the world. Come experience the beauty of the Everglades. There are many informative, and relaxing eco-tour to the backcountry of Key Largo and the EVERGLADES.  

    • everglades tour A trip into the Everglades is a trip back in time. To see the untouched, unspoiled, wild lands. To travel down winding mangrove lined creeks, open bays, and thousands of mangrove islands. There are many forms of wildlife, from nesting sea turtles to bald eagles. Pods of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins ply the deeper waters, bonefish tail in the shallows, and blue crabs comb the bottom.

      Ever since John James Audubon visited Keys in 1832, birders have been taking notes — on the bird life of the Upper Florida Keys. The birds diversity of this coastal landscape are due to habitat nesting, and migration. First understand the forces that shape the land,its geology, and climate.

      On and above the water are the WILD BIRDS OF THE FLORIDA KEYS: magnificent osprey, giant white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, egrets of all types, endangered Everglades (swallowtail) kites just to name a few. Maybe you'll even be rewarded with the sighting of the majestic flight of an American Bald Eagle.
      florida eco-tours

      Florida Everglades


      Every trip into the Everglades is an experience. There is always something new to see. Whether you want to see the NATIVE PLANTS   and wildlife or just enjoy a KAYAKING ride through scenic areas, it will take you on an unforgettable adventure.


      Welcome To Florida Keys

      Each year more than 3 million tourists visit the Florida Keys

      Florida Keys stretch southwestward from the mainland in a crescent-shaped archipelago. Here, where the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meet.

      Walk the nature trails to learn about Keys native plants and animals. Upper Keys. Key Largo.

      The Keys and south Florida are the only locations in the U.S. to support tropical flora with over 120 species of trees in the hardwood hammock alone!


      The Everglades  is the only ecosystem of its kind in the world, encompasses some 1.4 million acres. Visitors see bald eagles and many of the 300 other species of birds found in the park as well as alligators, deer and bobcats.


      Ponce de León named this peninsula "Florida" for its flowers, long before we imported the many exotic plants we find in our landscapes today.

      KEY LARGO Alligator
      KEY LARGO Dolphin

      KEY LARGO Peligan
      KEY LARGO Manatee

      The Keys extend 220 miles south and west of the Florida peninsula. The islands were formed from ancient coral and sand shoals, which are covered by mangroves and tropical hardwood hammocks. The unique geography of the Florida Keys has resulted inplant and animal communities more similar to Caribbean islands than to the rest of the United States, and some plants and animals are found nowhere else in the world. The core of the south Florida ecosystem is a unique watershed, the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades or KOE watershed. This watershed supports and connects freshwater and terrestrial plants and animals to marine waters, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, and marine fish.

      Ecosystem Roles

      American alligators have proven to be an important part of the environment, and therefor, are considered by many to be a "keystone" species. Not only do they control populations of prey species, they also create peat and "alligator holes" which are invaluable to other species. Red-bellied turtles, for example, incubates its own eggs in old alligator nests. Alligators also are good indicators of environmental factors, such as toxin levels. Increased levels of mercury have been found in recent blood samples.

      SEAGRASS SPECIES PROFILES

      Much of the backcountry consists of seagrass meadows. This grass-like vegetation forms small patchy beds that can develop into expansive meadows. These seagrass meadows may take many decades to form. Seagrass is the foundation of the aquatic food chain upon which many wildlife species are dependent.  They support complex food webs through both a physical and primary production role. Juveniles of many commercially important species of fish and invertebrates inhabit seagrass beds as a nursery area, others permanently over their entire lifecycle.These marine plants play critical roles in the coastal environment, including nursery habitat for estuarine fisheries, a major source of organic biomass for coastal food webs, effective agents for stabilizing coastal erosion and sedimentation, and major biological agents in nutrient cycling and water quality processes. A seagrass is a flowering plant, complete with leaves, a rhizome (an underground, usually horizontally-oriented stem) and a root system. Because these plants must photosynthesize, they are limited to growing submerged in the photic zone, and most occur in shallow and sheltered coastal waters anchored in sand or mud bottoms. Seagrasses require sunlight, water, nutrients, and a soft muddy substrate.

      The seagrass meadows of south Florida are the most extensive in the world, covering more than 2,120 square miles (5,500 square km). This community is within an area surrounded by Cape Sable, north Biscayne Bay, and the Dry Tortugas, including Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.

      There are seven different seagrass species that provide essential ecological functions.

      Turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), the most common type of seagrass  Turtle Grass is the largest and most robust seagrass in Florida and the Caribbean. It is also the most abundant seagrass of the Caribbean. The leaves are ribbon-like. They are about ½ inch wide and up to 14 inches long. Turtle grass will grow in water up to 82.5 feet (25 m) and salinities as low as 20 ppt. It prefers shallower water up to 33 feet (10 m) and salinities between 25-40 ppt.

      • Manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme)  Manatee grass is the second most aboundant seagrass in Florida. It is unique for having cylindrical leaves. The length of the leaves is highly variable, but it can reach lengths of 20 inches (50 cm) in some areas. Manatee grass can withstand salinities as low as 20 ppt. Manatee grass is commonly mixed with other seagrasses, or in small monospecific patches.

      • Shoal grass (Halodule wrightii)  Shoal grass is an extremely important seagrass. It is a colonizer of disturbed area where turtle grass and manatee grass cannot grow. It is often found in waters too shallow or too deep for other seagrasses to grow. Of all the seagrasses shoal grass can withstand the widest range of temperatures and salinities.

      • Johnson’s sea grass (Halophila johnsoni)

      • Star grass (Halophila engelmannii)

      • Paddle grass (Halophila decipiens)

      • Widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima)

      SEAGRASSES  FLORIDA OCEANOGRAPHIC CENTER

      SEAGRASSES  PISCES

      JOHN PENNEKAMP PARK   KEY LARGO

      KEY LARGO   YOU TUBE

      Florida's geologic history begins deep beneath its surface where ancient rocks indicate that Florida was once a part of northwest Africa. As ancient supercontinents split apart, collided, and rifted again, a fragment of Africa remained attached to North America. This fragment formed the base for the carbonate buildup which includes the Florida and Bahamas Platforms.

      Portions of the Florida peninsula have been above or below sea level at least four times in recent geologic history. As glaciers expanded and melted, the Florida peninsula emerged and submerged.

      Although the Florida Keys' geologic history dates to millions of years ago - part of it rests on submerged foothills of the Appalachian Mountains its modern era is less than half a millenium old.

      Upper and Middle Keys are composed of Key Largo Limestone which are the peaks of once live coral forests. These were once live, thriving and dense forests of many corals and other marine organisms - flora and fauna. As one would expect the coral forests were of various densities and heights; however, they are of less height the farther south one goes except for Key West. These have heights from 10 to 18 feet. The Low Coral Keys are from five to 10 feet. As the glaciers reformed taking water from the ocean, sea level dropped, the coral forests died and collapsed into islands we now live on.

      The Key Largo limestone is a Pleistocene, white to light gray marine limestone, which contains numerous fossil corals. Some of these corals have been partially dissolved by ground water and the spaces remaining filled with crystalline calcite. The Key Largo limestone is found at the land surface in the Florida Keys from Sand Key to Loggerhead Key.

      GEOLOGICAL SITE   Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

      The geography and natural resources of the Florida Keys make them among the most diverse of ecosystems in North America. The chain of over 1,700 islands that make up the archipelago of the Keys extends approximately 220 miles southwest along the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. As recently as 125,000 years ago, the islands themselves were actually part of a submerged coral reef. Today the exposed limestone bedrock supports a diverse sampling of plants and animals, including unique hardwood HAMMOCKS.

      All life on the tropical CORAL REEF  depends on corals. Either directly or indirectly, corals make possible all the life in our shallow tropical seas. Corals remove minerals from ocean water to build enormous colonial skeletons. Millions of coral animals, called polyps, build entire islands, and produce food and shelter for millions of fish and invertebrates.

      Even though all these other animals depend on corals, the corals' life is not peaceful. The polyps require a place to live on the surface of the coral skeleton, and neighboring colonies will fight with each other for space on the reef. Other animals (especially colonies of sponges) also fight with the corals for living space on the sea floor.

      There are more than 6,000 species of plants and animals in the waters of the Florida Keys, and many of these can be found on the reefs. Florida's coral reef tract extends from Fowey Rocks near Miami to the Dry Tortugas.T

      Coral heads are  not a pile of rocks, but a living, breathing collection of billions of living organisms no larger than the head of a pin. These communal animals are called coral polyps. Millions of coral polyps produce enormous formations called coral heads.  Together these have produced a patch reef. Patch reefs are always surrounded by a ring of white sand within a vast expanse of turtle grass.

    • NATIVE PLANTS OF THE FLORIDA KEYS 

      Over time, as native plants evolved with their environment, adapting to the soil, water conditions, and weather patterns of an area, they developed the ability to thrive in extreme conditions. These hearty characteristics are beneficial to humans. In addition to the fact that native plants are easy to grow and inexpensive to maintain, they can ultimately save us, by preserving the land and recharging the eco-systems upon which we rely for clean air and water.

      South Florida is subtropical. Around half of our plant species are of temperate origin, an extension of the flora of the Southeast coastal plain. The other half are members of the Caribbean tropical flora and reach their northernmost limit in South Florida. The flora of the Keys in particular is almost entirely tropical and similar in many ways to that of the Bahamas Islands.

      Florida, with over 4,100 species of native or naturalized ferns and seed plants, is the third most floristically diverse state in the United States. The Florida Keys have more species of native trees-about 110-than any other location north of Mexico. Since most of these trees can survive only in the Florida Keys

      Benefits of Native Plants

      While south Florida's native plants may not offer the striking floral displays of some tropical exotics, many do possess attractive foliage or colorful fruits. Often they can add a pleasing form or texture to the landscape. South Florida has a wide variety of native plants that are both attractive and useful as landscape plants. The species grow well in urban landscape settings in part or all of south Florida without much fuss - assuming they are planted in the right place in the landscape. In addition to being interesting additions to urban yards and landscapes, native plants also increase the diversity of natural insect predators. Many are also attractive to other types of sought-after wildlife species (i.e., birds and butterflies).

      Select plants that can take the Florida Keys growing conditions of limited available water, salty winds, salt intrusion into the root zone, high pH soils, and year round pest problems

      Native plants are adapted to the soils, rain patterns, temperatures and pests of South Florida. By replacing exotic plants in our in our landscapes with natives, we are able to conserve water, reduce fertilizer & pesticide use and attract birds and butterflies to our gardens.

      JOHN PENNEKAMP PARK  

      RED MANGROVE - THE WALKING TREE
      Species Name:   Rhizophora mangle L.
    • Mangroves form an interesting environment along the coastline.This is were the sea and land blend together. The mangrove is one of the few trees that thrive in salt water. Seeds of the red mangrove start sprouting while on the tree. Later the seeds drop off and are destined by the tide.

      Typically found along the water's edge, the red mangrove can be identified by its tangled, reddish colored roots called "prop-roots." Prop roots extending from the trunk of the red mangrove stabilize the the tree in the soft mud.This massive system of the red mangrove prop roots in the swamp lines the sea edge, forming a protective barrier against storms. 

       

       

      Mangrove coast produces an unique environment by blending land and sea. Mangroves grow along many of the worlds tropical and subtropical coastlines. The mangroves arching prop root system traps silt and detritus, eventually building up islands of dry land.

      Mangrove Food Chain: The leaves from the mangrove tree fall year round. They quickly decompose. This provides food for small organisms. These small organisms are food for small animals. The small animals provide food for larger animals such as birds, fish and people.

       
       
      Mangroves form an interesting environment involving a maze of tidal creeks and countless islands, with endless shorelines. This hardy tropical tree is home to a variety of wildlife. They find food and shelter in the mangroves. Their roots help stablize the shoreline and filter pollutants. Birds build nest in the branches of these trees.

      South Florida water shortage is real

       DON'T BE LULLED INTO A FALSE SENSE OF COMFORT

      The water still flows strongly when you turn on the tap, so it is easy to understand why some South Florida residents may not be taking the current drought seriously. One way to restore regional water patterns is to establish water protection areas along the eastern border of Everglades.  This is land they need to acquire because it will help their plan.  These areas will control the loss of water through unnatural seepage, help clean the water, provide buffer zone between urban (city) areas and the natural system, and improve the region’s water supply.  Buffer zones are shield or safeguard zones.  Unnatural leakage occurs when dikes and other features are constructed and create irregular filtration.   

      Florida climate change is potential disaster.

      You never miss the water 'till the well runs dry" -Roland Howard. In the case of the Upper Keys, it was the cistern and not the well that ran dry. The Ancient Mariner proclaimed, "Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink." The indigenous Keys Indians had various fresh-water holes and reportedly a few artesian wells to obtain drinking water. They simply must have had fresh water for their survival; however, that was long before we decided to drain the Everglades for more usable land. The cutting of canals not only drained surface water, but also sub-surface water. It lowered the fresh water table from three to five feet in the Keys.

      Freshwater wetlands

      Florida's freshwater wetlands are no less reduced in area than the upland ecosystems. Prior to European settlement, most of the southern third of the state -- from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay -- was dominated by freshwater forested or herbaceous wetlands. Together, freshwater swamps and marshes are found today on about 20% of Florida's land mass, or 3 million ha. According to Kautz (1993), more marsh has been destroyed since 1936 (1.6 million ha) than remains today (1.1 million ha). Much of this loss has occurred in the Everglades-Kissimmee marsh system, which once formed a wide, continuous flowway down the center of the peninsula. Loss of swamp habitat is more difficult to quantify because of the patchy nature of swamp distribution, but destruction has been substantial.

      Blame the greenhouse effect. El Niño. La Niña. Overdevelopment. Shortsighted state and county officials. Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same — we are running out of drinking water.

      The trees, coral reefs, tourism and our drinking water supply are in danger of climate change.The warming of the planet means Florida, with 1,200 miles of heavily populated and vulnerable coastline, is feeling real-time effects.

       Sea levels are rising twice as fast as once predicted

      • Higher temperatures are shifting tropical conditions

      • Seas are hotter.

      • Droughts may be increasing

      The Florida Keys, tiny islands just a few feet above sea level, are the most vulnerable. Since 1930, the ocean has risen about nine inches around the Florida Keys.  ''It's running right at a foot per century. The Florida Keys, with a one-foot rise could put water 200 to 2,000 feet inland.

      Beneath the Florida Keys, a lens of fresh water covers the salt water. As the seas rise, they push the fresh water up, especially in times of drought. As the salt water rises, the roots of trees that thrive in fresh water are then in salt water.

      Drainage of the Everglades in the 1960s and '70s diverted fresh water from the marshes into canals, creating a man-induced sea-level rise. Salt water moved inland and mangroves traveled with it. Now those upstream mangroves have moved farther into sawgrass. If sea-level rise reaches 23 inches by century's end, Everglades National Park expects to have 50 percent of its freshwater marshes inundated, reducing an entire ecosystem

      Rising seas also threaten South Florida's underground freshwater drinking supply. If rainfall fails to replenish the underground aquifer, salt water enters the aquifer and turns fresh water brackish. As the Everglades loses its freshwater marshes to salt water, parts of the aquifer would become saline

      Florida's severe drought is causing state officials to consider a water saving plan. The idea is to inject billions of gallons of stormwater runoff into deep underground aquifers, then pump it out the next time there's a drought. The governor and state legislature are enthusiastic, but environmentalists fear for the potential contamination of Florida's underground sources of drinking water.

      In 1967 Key West became the first U. S. city to have it's entire fresh water supply supplied from sea water. Desalinization of sea water is presently in use in many parts of the world.

      PARKS AND BEACHES OF THE UPPER KEYS

       

      Tropical hardwood hammocks are one of many natural communities found in Florida. The tropical hardwood hammocks are characterized by tropical plants. The word "hammock" was first used by early inhabitants to mean a cool and shady place. Later, settlers of Florida used the word "hammock" to indicate areas that were slightly higher in elevation from the rest of the land. Today, the term hammock is used in Florida to describe forest habitats that are typically higher in elevation than surrounding areas and that are characterized by hardwood forests of broad-leaved evergreens. Tropical hardwood hammocks occur in south Florida, Keys.This is a subtropical zone where danger from frost is rare and tropical trees and shrubs  are able to survive.

      Geiger Tree

      Cordia Sebestena is a small shapely tree which grows up to be  25" tall and as wide. It is native to the northern coast of South America, Yucatan, the West Indies, and the Florida Keys (although it it is considered by most to be a native tree, most likely it was introduced).

      Historians using Key West records have been able to document that Dr. Strobel's neighbor was a Captain Geiger. The Cordia tree thus became part of Key's history when the tree took on the additional name of Geiger tree. Named after Captain John H. Geiger, who built his home on Whitehead Street in Key West, the name "Geiger tree" is likely of local origin inspired by Audubon's engraving of Captain Geiger's beautiful flowering Cordia tree with white-crowned pigeons sitting in a branch.

       

       Common name: Florida Buttonwood
      Botanical name: Conocarpus erectus `Momba'
      Family name: Combretaceae


      Buttonwood is named for its hard, durable heartwood that actually was used to make clothing buttons. It is native to coastal forests and lagoons throughout tropical America and West Africa. In nature this tree grows like a mangrove, forming dense thickets of shrubby growth, but when grown in the open it becomes a beautiful broad-spreading tree up to 60 feet in height.
      Buttonwood is evergreen, fast-growing, pest-free, drought and salt-tolerant. It is also one of the best trees on which to establish epiphytic orchids. Our specimen is a cultivated variety called "Momba" which has larger leaves than the average buttonwood.

       

      Common name: Saw Grass
      Botanical name: Cladium jamaicense crantz
      Family name: Cyperaceae


      Sawgrass-dominated communities once covered nearly 2 million acres (800,000 ha) of the Everglades.  Although sawgrass stands have declined due to reduced water flows and increased
      salinity, they still dominate approximately 65 to 70 percent of the remaining Everglades.  Sawgrass marshes have been classified into two general catagories: (1) dense stands occurring in shallow water underlain by deep organic soils and (2) sparse stands occurring in deep water on shallow peat or marl.

       

       Common name: Wild Coffee
      Botanical name: Psychotria rufipes
      Family name: Rubiaceae



      Wild coffee is shrub-like with multiple stems, and may reach a final height and width of 4 - 10 feet.  Foliage is shiny and dark green in color.  The oval leaves are approximately 6 inches in length, simple and opposite on the stem.  Veins are prominent and pinnate, sunken deeply into the leaves to give a highly textured appearance.  Flowers are white and occur in clusters throughout the spring and summer months.  The deep red fruits are oval, and measure approximately 0.3 inches in length.

       

       Common name: Gumbo Limbo
      Botanical name: Bursera simaruba
      Family name: Burseraceae


      Gumbo-limbo is a tropical tree that is native to the southeastern United States. It adapts to a variety of habitats, from dry to moist, and is fairly salt-tolerant. It is also considered one of the most wind-tolerant trees in south Florida and is recommended as a good, hurricane-resistant species.

      The gummy, turpentine-scented resin has been used in the West Indies for making glue, varnish, liniments, and as a coating for canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as a treatment for gout, while the leaves are brewed into a medicinal tea. The light, soft, spongy wood is used for fence posts that have been known to take root in the ground and grow!

       

       Common name: Red Mangrove
      Botanical name: 
      Rhizophora manglec
      Family name: Combretaceae


      Buttonwood is named for its hard, durable heartwood that actually was used to make clothing buttons. It is native to coastal forests and lagoons throughout tropical America and West Africa. In nature this tree grows like a mangrove, forming dense thickets of shrubby growth, but when grown in the open it becomes a beautiful broad-spreading tree up to 60 feet in height.
      Buttonwood is evergreen, fast-growing, pest-free, drought and salt-tolerant. It is also one of the best trees on which to establish epiphytic orchids. Our specimen is a cultivated variety called "Momba" which has larger leaves than the average buttonwood.

       

       Common name: Sea Grape
      Botanical name: Coccoloba uvifera
      Family name: Polygonaceae


      The Sea Grape, native to the sandy seashores of tropical America, usually forms a low shrub but may be a spreading tree 30 to 35 feet (10 m) in height. The stiff, roundish leaves may measure 8 by 7 inches (20 by 17.5 cm) and have prominent, reddish veins. Sea grape is highly tolerant of salt spray and salty soils as well as strong sun and wind. It is often planted as a windbreak near beaches and as a hedge or screening barrier. Sea grape makes a fine shade tree.


       

       
       GALLERY:  Poison wood              Metopium toxiferum
             
       

       

      Poisonwood
      Metopium toxiferum.
       


      As indicated by the name, all parts of this tree are poisonous. The poison is a resin, visible on the gray or reddish bark as dark oily splotches. The tree has dark, green, glossy, wedge-shaped leaflets hanging from the stem, usually in a cluster of five. They are often blotched with irregular spots of the black resin. The small creamy-white blossom clusters develop into oval, dull orange fruit, greatly favored by the White Crowned Pigeon. 

       

      EVERGLADES

      The everglade have miles of mangrove shoreline... hundreds of coves and bays...quiet coastal rivers and back country lakes. There is shallow water everywhere. To some it's sight fishing from the deck of a flats boat. While quietly poling the boat in  inches of water in pursuit of visible fish. It's is the sight of sleeping tarpon, tailing reds and lurking snook. For the  angler, it's a unique opportunity to fish in one of nature's most idyllic settings. There is mixture of temperate species of plants and animals unique to the Florida Everglades. The Everglades region begins north near Orlando in central Florida, and ends in the Florida Bay at the peninsula's southern tip near the Keys.

      The environment here is defined by water. A freshwater river varying fromt inch to several feet in depth, and 50 or more miles wide. This riverbed slopes gradually, it's course creeps seaward  for hundreds of miles. The River of Grass is warmed by the tropical climate.The Everglades is a  river  of algae that sustains larger life forms such as insects, fish, allagators, mollusks, turtles and snakes.

      The lower Everglades may be devided into subunites based on biological and hypographic factors. Two of these subunits are Shark River Slought, the river of grass and Taylor Slought, the center of Florida Bay drainage basin. Rocky Glades is transitional area between these regions. It is characterized by exposed limestone referred to as pinnacle rock. Northwest of Shark Slought is Broad River-Lostmans River Drainage. These areas include; pinelands, hammocks, wet prairies, cypress, thickets and marshes.

      Southwest is a low salt marsh and mangrove- dominated area of coastal swamps and lagoons. Monroe County has 98,000 hectares of mangroves. Mangroves are a tropical species.They are saltwater tolerant. Tidal flow can benefit mangroves through nutrient import. They grow best in low-energy environments. These areas do not stress the roots, and allow for a sediment accumulation.

      Mangrove classification : Overwash and fringe forest occur along shoreline an inundated by high tides. They are dominated by red mangroves and exposed to open water.

      Basin Forest : all three mangrove species are found; Red Mangroves are where tidal influence is the strongest. Dominance to blck and then to white as the tidal influence decreases.

      The term "river of grass" is one which you may recognize in association with the Everglades. This is an interpretation of "Pay-ha-okee," a Native American term meaning "grass river" which conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas used in her 1947 book The Everglades: River of Grass.

      ________________________________________________________________________________

      Everglades flats - Florida Bay is home to some of the best saltwater fishing and fly fishing in the world.There are hundreds of species to keep you interested. Bone fish, redfish, snook, and trapon, are some of Everglades premiere gamefish. An Everglades fishing trips offer you the ability to see  a wide range of animals, birds and sea life, and at the same time you are fishing.

      The Everglades is a diverse fishing area. There are Bays, shallow flats, brackish ponds and mangrove islands. Everglades flats fishing is a great get away. The everglades have many unspoiled locations. This is a placed unlocked by time. Sit back and take in the beauty. Enjoy the moment of this special place. 

      Redfish enjoy the warm waters of upper keys and Florida Bay. There habitat are mangroves,  grassy flats, and the oyster beds.  Florida Bay is world famous for Redfish fishing.  Redfish are often seen "tailing" on the shallow flats as they feed. Try a casting right on their nose, let the games begin. They pull hard and  run.

      Snook can be found near shore to inshore or in fresh - brackish water. The colder the water temperatures, the farther inland they will be found. 

           During the summer breeding period fish in the surf. The best to fish for snook is early in the morning, about 1 hour before sunrise. The best results for fishing will be until about 9:00 or 10:00 AM on an incoming tide. Cast into the white water at the edge of the beach.

            In the spring fish where fresh water meets the brackish water. The best time is after a spring rain, on an outgoing tide. These areas are flooded with baitfish. Fish located in these are feeding on the combination of bottom debris. This is plant and animal matter in the current. The predators will be waiting.

      Like the tarpon, the snook bites best at night, mornings and evenings.Roseate spoonbills stand like statues in the shallow saltwater flats. Broad-winged hawks circle in a cloudless tropical sky. And yellow-crowned night heron perch on the sulfur-scented mangroves at low tide.

      EVERGLADES FLORIDA KEYS YOU TUBE

      Trails Everglades National Park has many miles of hiking and biking trails. Choose the area of the park you are interested in exploring:

      Royal Palm/Long Pine Key
      Flamingo
      Shark Valley
      Biking the Shark Valley Tram Road
      Gulf Coast


      Bicycling

      Bicycling is permitted along the main park roads, on the Shark Valley tram road, on the Old Ingraham Highway, on Long Pine Key Nature Trail, and on the Snake Bight and Rowdy Bend trails at Flamingo. See individual trail descriptions for details.

      Endangered Species in Everglades National Park:


      American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
      Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
      Atlantic Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempi)
      Atlantic hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
      Atlantic leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
      Cape Sable seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritima mirabilis)
      Snail (Everglades) kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus)
      Wood stork (Mycteria americana)
      West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus)
      Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi)
      Key Largo wood rat (Neotoma floridana smalli)
      Key Largo cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus allapaticola)
      Red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis)
      Schaus swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus)
      Garber's Spurge (Chamaesyce garberi)

      Everglades National Park at 305-247-6211 or the Tropical Everglades Visitors Center at 305-245-9180 or 800-388-9669.

      From the Keys, travel north on US1 to Florida City. Turn left at West Palm Drive (S.R. 9336) and continue nine miles to the park entrance. Upon arriving, stop by the park visitor center , there you will be given an introduction and different ways to experience its wonder.

       
      DIVE SITES KEY LARGO AND FLORIDA KEY'S DIVE SPOTS Grecian dive spot,Turtle Reef, Spiegel Grove , Molasses Reef, Christ OF THE DEEP STATUE, Blue Hole, Bib and Duane dive wrecks, French Reef, Benwood wreck, Caryfort Reef, Elbow Reef,Key Largo Dry Rocks shipwrecks and coral reef
       
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      KEYS HISTORY KEY LARGO HISTORY AND THE FLORIDA KEYS
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      OCEAN POINTE SUITE # 1307, KEY LARGO, FLORIDA - OCEANSIDE - MM 92

      Ocean Pointe Vacation This upscale Condominium Resort is located directly on the Ocean in Key Largo. Offering a beautifully decorated condo, with two bedroom - two bath with whirlpool tubs for weekly and monthly rentals Ocean Pointe Suite is located,about one hour drive south from Miami international Airport,The hard Rock Cafe-Casino,the Art Deco South Beach and Miami shopping.
      About 90 miles east of Key West.



      Rates (in US Dollars )
      Sep 01-Dec 15 ... $125/night .. $ 800/week. (3 night min)
      Dec 16-Aug 31 ... $150/night .. $ 950/week. (3 night min)
      Holidays ........ $200/night .. $1100/week. (3 night min)
      Special Events .. $200/night .. $1100/week. (3 night min)
      Special Events includes Mini + Open Lobster Season.
      20 % deposit required to make a reservation.
      Refundable up to 30 days before arrival date.
      
      Note: Until confirmed, rates are subject to change without notice.
       

       
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      Key Largo is known as the "Diving Capital of the World" while Islamorada is called the "Sport Fishing Capital".
       
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      Key Largo Getaway
       
    • FOR INFORMATION AND BOOKINGS CALL 516-991-9575
       
      Vacation Property
      OCEAN POINTE  Vacation Rental
       
      Key Largo is known as the "Diving Capital of the World" while Islamorada is called the "Sport Fishing Capital".
       
      Photo Gallery  OCEAN POINTE OF THE FLORIDA KEY'S 

      HOME   OCEAN POINTE SUITE KEY LARGO

      "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."
      – Albert Einstein