Before the summer of 2023, the Florida Keys reef—the largest coral reef in the continental U.S.—was dying. Healthy coral cover had already dropped by 90 percent. Then, in July of that year, a historic warming event struck the Caribbean, threatening what little coral cover remains. Scientists fear this summer's marine heatwave could push the reef beyond repair, putting at risk Florida’s fisheries, tourism, coastal communities, and thousands of marine species, many of which are already rare.
Vox reporter Benji Jones and underwater photojournalist Jennifer Adler have teamed up to document this crisis in new detail and explore a difficult question: Could this be the end for the Florida Keys reef? Their project will reveal the scale of the devastation—but also seek out the most promising solutions to keep the reef alive for future generations. Jones and Adler have dived and photographed these reefs before and after the summer heatwave, so they will show how the reef has changed.
The impact of climate change on coral reefs—charismatic as they are—is under-appreciated and urgent. And under climate change, as much as 90% of tropical corals could vanish. Florida is just a preview of what’s to come.