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In cooperation with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Panama City Laboratory, the Biogeography Branch will complete the following objective::
- Seafloor Characterization: Delineate and characterize cross-shelf benthic habitats off the coast of Panama City, Florida by obtaining and integrating abiotic data collected using multibeam echosounders (MBES) with biotic information obtained from underwater imagery systems.
- Eventually, the characterization products may be used by the Panama City Lab to determine reef fish community structure and habitat utilization patterns from nearshore areas to the shelf break, in order to support fisheries ecosystem model development and management.
Benthic habitat mapping and characterization is a fundamental component of ecosystem-based management because it integrates a variety of information to define the extent, nature and health of coral reef ecosystems. Habitat utilization patterns of particular species or groups of animals maybe explained by linking these benthic habitat maps with animal distribution, abundance and demographic data. This integrated, spatially-explicit approach is useful in quantitatively defining essential fish habitat, and providing resource managers with baseline data to make informed, administrative decisions.
In the northeast (NE) Gulf of Mexico, there is a zone of deep-water geologic features that extend from the outer shelf of Mississippi to the panhandle of Florida. These rugose features play a key role in fisheries production because they act as important habitats for ecologically and economically important reef fish. As fish stocks in the shallower areas of the NE Gulf of Mexico become depleted and experience increasing stress from growing coastal populations, these deep-water reefs are likely to experience a subsequent and sustained increase in fishing pressure.
In order to better understand these deep-water reef ecosystems and the role they play as EFH, CCMA’s Biogeography Branch is supporting NMFS Panama City Lab in delineating and characterizing cross-shelf benthic habitats by integrating abiotic data collected using multibeam echosounders (MBES) with biotic information obtained from underwater imagery systems. This data synthesis will allow for a better understanding of the marine resources within the surveyed area, as well as contribute to the development of detailed species utilization models.
Figure 1. Example mosaic of multibeam echosounder (MBES) data off Panama City.
Figure 2. a) Lions Paw Reef - one of the sites in the nearshore depth stratum. This reef has a 1-1.5 m profile along parts of it, and is one of our highest profile sites. b) This is one of the sites (un-named) in the mid-shelf depth stratum. All three sites in this stratum, as well as those in the outer shelf stratum, have a much lower profile than any of those in the nearshore stratum. The mid-shelf sites also have noticeably different fish and invertebrate faunas than the nearshore sites.
Completed: 2007 - 2008
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1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 ext 171
3500 Delwood Beach Road
Panama City, Florida 32408