Naitonal Ocean Service
National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)
Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Biogeography Team: Randy Clark, Kimberly woody, Kim Foley, Tom McGrath, Sarah Davidson-Hile, Eric Finnen
National Marine Sanctuary Program: Steve Gittings, Emma Hickerson, G.P. Schmahl, Doug Weaver
Chis Caldo began work at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) in 1998 as a graduate student working out of the University of Houston. Chris’ work on resident populations of threespot and bicolor damselfish demonstrated that these small fish can live for up to 20 years. This information has significant implications when determining the productivity of a tropical ecosystem or how quickly a tropical ecosystem might recover from stress.
Chris subsequently went to work for NOAA’s Biogeography Team where he is responsible for managing NOAA’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Program. The methodologies employed by the Team and honed by their work in the U.S. Caribbean focus on providing managers with essential knowledge on the distribution and abundance of the species being managed. This information is critical when making spatially explicit management decisions. The close ties already established with FGBNMS staff and the need for this type of information make the sanctuary an important and logical extension of the efforts in the Caribbean.
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Fish and Benthic Habitat Characterization of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Since 2000 the Biogeography Team has been managing NOAA’s Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Program. The goals and objectives of this program are: 1) to spatially characterize and monitor the distribution, abundance, and size of both reef fishes and macro-invertebrates (conch, lobster, Diadema); 2) to relate this information to in-situ data collected on water quality and associated habitat parameters; 3) to use this information to establish the knowledge base necessary for enacting management decisions in a spatial setting; 4) to establish the efficacy of those management decisions; and 5) to work with the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program to develop data collection standards and easily implemented methodologies for transference to other agencies and to work toward standardizing data collection throughout U.S. states and territories.
This effort has been focused in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and recently was expanded to two of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries: Grays Reef (2004) and the FGBNMS (2006). Monitoring of the biological communities has taken place at FGBNMS since the 1970's. This work has focused primarily on monitoring the benthos with video transects and photostations documenting transitions between coral, algae and sponge communities over time. Until relatively recently, little has been done to monitor or characterize the reef fish community.
Products from the current effort will include a report on sampling designs appropriate for monitoring both the shallow and deeper water habitats of the Flower Garden Banks, a GIS based tool to aid with the implementation of the sampling design, and a spatial and quantitative characterization of the benthic fish community in relatively shallow waters (<110 ft).
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This work is part of an ongoing project. Investigations into optimizing the sampling design have demonstrated that a random stratified approach is the most efficient. Visual surveys or other techniques that approximate visual surveys as closely as possible (e.g. ROVs) are the most effective for characterizing the diurnal population of reef fishes.
To date, initial comparisons have highlighted the unique nature of FGBNMS in comparison with other regions of the U.S. Caribbean. The high coral cover and complexity of habitats together with reduced anthropogenic impacts have combined to produce a comparatively high biomass and abundance of fishes. Work in 2007 will focus on uncovering the spatial relationships between the species and their associated habitats and providing an overall characterization of the coral cap fish community (<110 ft).
Biogeographic Characterization of Fish Communities within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary - Work Plan (September 2006) (152kb pdf)
Biogeographic Characterization of Fish Communities within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary - Mission Report (October 2006) (400kb pdf)
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