Abstract


LONG-TERM MONITORING OF CORAL ASSEMBLAGES IN FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, GULF OF MEXICO

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, consisting of East Flower Garden Bank (EFGB), West Flower Garden Bank (WFGB), and Stetson Bank, contains coral reefs and coral communities in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Long-term monitoring programs have been conducted at EFGB and WFGB since 1989 and at Stetson Bank since 1993. We examined 27 years of shallow (<33.5 m) benthic percent cover data at EFGB and WFGB, providing a long-term trend analysis of the community structure. Although percent macroalgae cover has increased significantly, mean coral cover averaged above 50%. In contrast to many other phase shifting reefs in the Caribbean region, the increase in macroalgae cover has not resulted in coral decline at EFGB and WFGB. Conversely, benthic monitoring at Stetson Bank has documented four community shifts (1996, 1999, 2006, and 2015). In this 23 year time frame, both sponge and coral cover (predominantly hydrocoral) declined, macroalgae cover varied widely, and the reef has been impacted by bleaching, hurricane damage, and land-based runoff. The highly variable environmental conditions at Stetson Bank differ drastically in comparison to the relatively stable conditions at EFGB and WFGB. This is largely due to Stetson's more northern latitude and closer proximity to shore. Continued long-term monitoring documents changes in the reef communities at the marine sanctuary, enabling resource managers to make decisions regarding management and research activities focused on the dynamics of the benthic communities and the biota they support.

Authors

Johnston, M. A., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, MICHELLE.A.JOHNSTON@NOAA.GOV

NUTTALL, M. F., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, Marissa.Nuttall@noaa.gov

ECKERT, R. J., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, Ryan.Eckert@noaa.gov

EMBESI, J. A., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, John.Embesi@noaa.gov

STERNE, T. K., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, Travis.Sterne@noaa.gov

HICKERSON, E. L., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, Emma.Hickerson@noaa.gov

SCHMAHL, G. P., NOAA FLOWER GARDEN BANKS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, USA, George.Schmahl@noaa.gov

Details

Poster presentation

Session #:02
Date: 06/20/2016
Time: 18:30 - 20:00
Location: Poster/Exhibit Hall

Presentation is given by student: No

PosterID: 13