Coastal habitats are critically important to South Florida, offering us both ecological and economic benefits. Barrier islands such as Key Biscayne and Virginia Key are especially important because of the biodiversity they sustain. On land, they provide food and shelter for many native birds, mammals and reptiles. Underwater, they support nurseries for marine organisms such as fish and lobster. The dense mangrove forests and coral reefs found in and near these habitats also buffer our coastlines from storms, cleanse our air, and filter our water, which in turn supports greater sea life. Despite their many benefits to our urban area, coastal habitats are under constant threat from urban growth.

A diver reads a transect measuring tape while examining a coral reef.

Coral Reefs

Often referred to as the “rainforests of the sea,” coral reefs offer greater biodiversity than any other marine ecosystem.

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A volunteer plants juvenile mangroves in ankle deep water.


Mangroves are fascinating plants characterized by their complex root systems that can tolerate saline conditions that would harm other plants.

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A group of volunteers clears invasive vegetation in a coastal forest.

Coastal Forests

Among the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on Earth, coastal forests sit within 62 miles of the coast, and are often positioned along critical pathways for migratory birds.

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Volunteers plant sea oat plugs on a newly cleared dune.


Although often associated with surfing or building sand castles, beaches are dynamic ecosystems that support many species of native wildlife.

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