Abstract


FISH COMMUNITY STRUCTURE FROM SHALLOW AND UPPER MESOPHOTIC ZONES OF FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY (FGBNMS), A REMOTE US CORAL REEF

The world's coral reefs are in a global decline, yet studies of mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) have revealed extensive, productive habitats and rich communities. Recent studies suggest that the upper mesophotic (UM) zone harbors many shallow water organisms and represents a transition between shallower reefs and distinct, lower mesophotic communities. As such, UM reefs may play an important role in the conservation of shallow reef ecosystems if less-impacted populations from the UM are able to re-seed populations degraded in shallow habitats. MCEs have been historically understudied due to sampling challenges in deeper depths and much remains to be learned about these ecosystems. We used conventional and technical diving to visually survey the fish communities of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) from shallow (18-33.5 m) and UM (33.5-45 m) depths. Overall, 123,064 fish from 36 families were observed (n = 291 surveys). Biomass was dominated by the family Serranidae, followed by Kyphosidae, Labridae, Carangidae, and Lutjanidae. We observed higher fish biomass in the UM and high-relief sites typically had higher fish density and biomass than low-relief sites. Fish community structure differed between shallow and UM depths, mostly reflecting the higher biomass of apex predators in the UM. Species composition of apex predators differed significantly between shallow and UM sites. Our study provides the first quantitative documentation of fish communities below 32 m at FGBNMS and may assist with the spatial management of apex predators in the sanctuary.

Authors

Muñoz, R. C., NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, USA, roldan.munoz@noaa.gov

Buckel, C. A., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, christine.addison@noaa.gov

Whitfield, P. E., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, paula.whitfield@noaa.gov

Clark, R., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, randy.clark@noaa.gov

Taylor, J. C., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, chris.taylor@noaa.gov

Degan, B. P., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, brian.p.degan@noaa.gov

Hickerson, E. L., NOAA/National Ocean Service, USA, emma.hickerson@noaa.gov

Details

Oral presentation

Session #:29
Date: 06/22/2016
Time: 16:15
Location: 308 A/B

Presentation is given by student: No