Heart Reef – Miami’s very own massive living heart, viewable from the air
The next time you have a flight into Miami International Airport (MIA), you might just be in for a little surprise. Certain flight paths will take your plane over a strange new addition to the tropical waters below. If you look out your window and look below, you may see a massive heart reef in the water lovingly starring back at you.
Heart Reef is a man-made coral reef, created and maintained by Atlantic Reef Conservation (ARC) in 2015. This colossal reef structure is 43,560 square feet and is located offshore from the Miami Beach harbor entrance known as Government Cut.
Heart Reef is not just any man-made structure, it’s classified as a living organism and is made up of several hundred different species of corals, invertebrates, sponges, and other organisms to form what is known as Live Rock. This live rock coral reef also provides habitat and nurseries for countless other species. It is as much alive as your very own beating heart.
We wanted to do something really different for Miami, something that not just the locals could enjoy, but something that everyone could come to know. We wanted it to have meaning, and to inspire people under a common goal or purpose. The original goal was simply to help rebuild Florida’s critically dying reefs by depositing natural reef material offshore in areas that were completely barren and devoid of any life. We soon realized that this alone would not be enough. After much thought, we came up with designing a massive coral reef in the shape of a heart that was not only visible to boaters but even visible to commercial planes in the air. We chose the design of a heart to signify everyone’s love for the sea and our support and commitment to our coral reefs.
The project started in 2012 with scientific testing and data collection in the area. When biological samples were compared with past years, the evidence showed that the biodiversity of organisms offshore Miami was indeed being reduced by numbers never before seen. Most people would be surprised to hear that Florida’s corals overall have been reduced by
79% 80% and are continuing to vanish year after year. If 79% 80% of Florida’s trees had vanished, you can be assured that people would take notice. EDIT: 1 year after this article has been written the percentage of overall corals lost in the US has risen to 80%. It’s hard for most people to visualize losing such a large percentage of coral reefs since they are not in view during our regular daily lives So we hope that our project can provide a voice for our reefs and that its presences may be a visual reminder that we need to have a heart, love each other, love our reefs, and to take care of our coral reefs before they are lost forever.
What’s next for Atlantic Reef Conservation (ARC)?
First, we will be continuing to maintain and grow “Heart Reef” in size. To date, we have placed 150,000 lbs of source reef material and are on track to have placed a total of 500,000 lbs by the end of 2016. We are also very excited for the next series of satellite images to be taken over Florida by Google Earth in 2016 where “Heart Reef” will be available for all to see for the first time.
We are already propagating different types of native coral species onto the reef, including a spectacular type of stony pillar coral, a once common coral type of the area but now very rarely seen. The overall objective is to take a barren plot of land in the ocean and transform it into a lush tropical coral reef that just a decade ago was a common sight. It’s not a question of “if” we can do this because we already are, the next question becomes, now what? Our hopes are that if people start to see that we can make this big of a difference that this practice may lead to partial privatization of our coral reefs. Many non-profits, scuba divers, and dive companies want to participate in this type of eco-tourism but current legislation makes it very difficult. We are working hard at our facility to selectively propagate only the hardiest corals. This will allow these corals to be more resilient against environmental impacts such as ocean acidification that are currently underway. We are growing small polyp stony corals that are thriving at a pH of 7.8 in our labs. This is no easy task though, and in several more generations of coral colony’s, they will be stronger and better adapted to acidification and temperature changes.
We are currently working on obtaining federal and state level permitting to create our next reef creation as well as obtaining special permitting in order to propagate 2 species of endangered corals; Elkhorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis) and Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis).
We want to share this reef with the public. We are undergoing additional permitting to add three swims through arches and caves. The hope is that divers will want to come to take a look at just how beautiful our reefs once were and how they can be brought back to this amazing level again.
ARC is a state and federally licensed facility specializing solely in Aqua-Cultured products and using the proceeds to benefit our marine ecosystems here in the US. If you’d like to read more, please visit us at ARC Reef Live Rock or if you are ready to get involved, feel free to Contact Us
Special thanks to The City of Miami and Virginia Key Outdoor Center for all their aid and support with this project. Virginia Key Outdoor Center