Abstract


RESILIENCE OF A UNIQUE MESOPHOTIC REEF IN THE GULF OF MEXICO, USA: A 30-YEAR HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE CORAL COMMUNITIES AT PULLEY RIDGE REEF

A five-year study was funded by NOAA (“Connectivity of the Pulley Ridge - South Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem”) to understand coral ecosystem connectivity in the southeastern United States, from mesophotic reefs at Pulley Ridge (PR) in the Gulf of Mexico to the shallow water reefs in the Florida Keys. This paper uses these data from ROV photographic transects over a four year period (2012-2015) to characterize the scleractinian coral community at Pulley Ridge mesophotic reef and to compare the coral community with historical surveys completed in 1980s and 2003. Our ROV surveys in 2012-15 document a biologically diverse and dense community dominated by algae (49% cover), diverse sponges (92 taxa), and hard corals (over 60,000 counted; e.g., Agaricia spp., Helioseris cucullata, Montastraea cavernosa, Madracis spp.). We discovered a catastrophic 93% loss of coral on main PR since 2003 (mean coral cover from 12.83% to 0.82%). However, in 2015 additional surveys discovered dense populations of argaricid corals outside of the PR Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) where average coral density was 18.46 colonies m^-2 (3.5% mean coral cover; max. 6.8%). Overall PR a relatively small percentage had signs of White Syndromes disease (mean 1.0%, max 4.04%) or bleaching (mean 0.76%, max 3.03%). Potential causes for the coral loss include cold water upwelling, hurricanes, disease, and river runoff. Kernel Smoothing Model in ArcGIS was used to plot the new coral distribution and was used in part to support a proposal to extend the boundaries of the PR HAPC.

Authors

Reed, J. K., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, USA, jreed12@fau.edu

Farrington, S., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, USA, sfarrington@fau.edu

Voss, J., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, USA, jvoss2@fau.edu

Spring, K., Continental Shelf Associates Inc., USA, kspring@conshelf.com

Hine, A., University of South Florida, USA, hine@marine.usf.edu

Kourafalou, V., University of Miami, USA, vkourafalou@rsmas.miami.edu

Smith, R., NOAA/AOML, USA, ryan.smith@noaa.gov

Vaz, A., University of Miami, USA, avaz@rsmas.miami.edu

Paris, C., University of Miami, USA, cparis@rsmas.miami.edu

Hanisak, D., Harbor Branch Oceanographic Inst., Florida Atlantic University, USA, dhanisak@fau.edu

Details

Oral presentation

Session #:15
Date: 06/23/2016
Time: 14:30
Location: 317 A/B

Presentation is given by student: No