Coral formation in the west and east flower garden banks

This photograph depicts the landscape of the West and East Flower Garden Banks. It illustrates the high coral coverage (around 50%) and competition for space between colonies. (Courtesy of Frank and Joyce Burek) Click image for a larger view.

The Islands

The continental shelf along the Yucatan Peninsula and rimming the Gulf of Mexico is populated by a series of hard-bottom (also called "hard substrate") communities. These include prominent habitat features, such as the extensive barrier reef systems of Belize and the Florida Keys, and also lone pinnacles and bank reefs located several mi to 100 mi from similar flora and fauna. Although the expanse of water between such areas would seem to be an effective barrier, isolating individual communities in the region, the prevailing currents can also serve as an efficient pathway, exchanging plant and animal material among communities.

Exploring some of these complex marine environments and the waters that connect them is the purpose of the 2001 Islands in the Stream Expedition. You can learn more about these extraordinary communities by selecting the profile image for each location.


Belize supplement Flower Gardens Banks supplement Pinnacles supplement Shelf and Shelf-Edge Reefs of the West Florida Shelf supplement

Flower Gardens Banks


Shelf and Shelf-Edge Reefs of the West Florida Shelf

Tortugas supplement Oculina Bank Reserve supplement Savannah Scarp supplement Monitor supplement

Tortugas Ecological Reserve

Oculina Bank Reserve

Savannah Scarp


The Point supplement Lophelia Reefs supplement Cape Fear Terrace supplement Charleston Bump supplement

NC Shelf: The Point

NC Shelf: Lophelia Reefs

NC Shelf: Cape Fear Terrace

Charleston Bump

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