Flower Garden Banks

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Biogeographic Characterization of Fish Communities and Associated Benthic Habitats within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Sampling Design and Implementation of Scuba Surveys on the Coral Caps

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Objectives:

The goal of this project was to provide FGBNMS staff with information on biogeographic patterns within the sanctuary critical to decision making. Specifically, this project focused on two explicit management goals of the sanctuary:

  1. To develop a sampling design for monitoring benthic fish communities on the coral caps;
  2. To obtain a spatial and quantitative characterization of those fish communities and their associated benthic habitats.

Project Summary

The FGBNMS is located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico approximately 180 km south of Galveston, Texas. The distance of the banks from the coastline reduces direct coastal impacts on the resident coral population. In addition, their depth combined with local oceanographic processes may provide some shelter for resident species from thermal stresses and hurricanes. The healthy corals resident there support a high abundance of coral reef fishes and other associated marine organisms. Studies of the coral assemblages on the banks report live coral cover at nearly 50%, a value among the highest reported for coral reefs in the Caribbean. Despite the demise of other reefs in the region, this statistic has not changed significantly in the FGBNMS in over 30 years of monitoring.

Basic monitoring and research efforts have been conducted on the banks since the 1970s. Early on, these efforts focused primarily on describing the benthic communities (corals, sponges) and providing qualitative characterizations of the fish community. Subsequently, more quantitative work has been conducted; however, it has been limited in spatial scope. The current study complements these efforts by providing a more spatially comprehensive sampling design for and characterization of the coral caps down to 33.5 m (110 ft).

For More Information

If you have questions or comments regarding the FGBMS study, please contact Chris Caldow (CCMA; Biogeography Branch) at 301-713-3028 x164 (). For information on the Biogeography Branch, please contact Mark Monaco at 301-713-3028 x160 ().

Citation

Caldow, C., R. Clark, K. Edwards, S.D. Hile, C. Menza, E. Hickerson, and G.P. Schmahl. 2009. Biogeographic Characterization of Fish Communities and Associated Benthic Habitats within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: Sampling Design and Implementation of SCUBA Surveys on the Coral Caps. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 81. Silver Spring, MD. 134 pp.