Marine Science Faculty Publications

Assessing the Distribution of Patch Reef Morphologies in the Lower Florida Keys, USA, using IKONOS Satellite Imagery

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



ICRS11, Emerging Techniques in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis, Florida Keys, patch reef, morphology, coral, remote sensing


As live coral cover continues to decline in the Florida Keys, it becomes increasingly important not only to determine the location and abundance of live coral remaining, but also to understand why certain areas possess higher coral cover than others. At present, coral cover tends to be highest at shallow inshore patch reefs. Our study has two objectives: 1) to determine, to the full extent visible by satellite imagery, the number and characteristics of patch reefs that could be recognized using IKONOS imagery; and 2) to test the assumption that various morphological groups of patch reefs occupy distinct cross-shelf zones in the Lower Keys. Two previous survey efforts using aerial imagery and reported 420 and 750 patch reefs, respectively, from Big Pine to the Marquesas Keys. By performing a visual assessment on IKONOS satellite imagery, we were able to delineate 2,251 patch reefs for this region. These patch reefs vary in their overall morphology (i.e., shape) and are spatially distributed in several cross-shelf bands. Patch reef classes identified were Aggregate, Atom, Colony, Crescent and Dome. Aggregate patch reefs are very numerous, relatively small, and dominantly located either shallow-midshelf or offshore. Dome, Colony and Crescent patch reefs are larger in area and are most common in the shallow-midshelf or offshore zones. This study represents an important first step in understanding the factors that may be controlling the distribution and shape of patch reefs along the Florida Keys Reef Tract and, subsequently, relating this to living coral cover on modern reefs.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, v. 1, p. 678-682