IDENTIFICATION OF MARINE PROTECTED AREAS FOR CONSERVATION, MANAGEMENT AND RESTORATION OF CORAL REEFS AND CORAL COMMUNITIES IN THE NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO
The utilization of marine protected areas is an important strategy in the conservation and management of coral reefs and coral communities. The northern Gulf of Mexico contains a range of coral ecosystems including coral reefs, mesophotic coral communities, and deep-sea coral assemblages. In 2015, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) initiated a formal process to expand its current boundaries to increase protection of additional reefs, banks and other offshore features of national significance. In order to identify the most important areas of interest, a procedure was developed to systematically determine the resources of highest ecological, economic and conservation value. This study describes the methodology used to identify those areas evaluated in the expansion proposal. The design methodology was based on information derived from extensive public input, expert opinion and over 30 years of science, monitoring and resource management of the region. In 2012, the FGBNMS released a revised Management Plan, containing a recommendation to expand the boundaries of the sanctuary. Building on this recommendation, a range of alternatives was developed that encompassed new and existing biological information, high-resolution topographic data and a variety of socioeconomic factors. Designation of additional MPAs will provide significant protection to important mesophotic and deepwater coral communities and contribute to restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
Schmahl, G. P., NOAA / Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hickerson, E. L., NOAA / Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, USA, email@example.com
Benson, K. G., NOAA Restoration Center, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: 302 A/B
Presentation is given by student: No