National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)/National Ocean Service (NOS)/National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)/Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA)/Biogeography Branch, 201306, Baseline assessment of benthic communities of the Flower Garden Banks (2010 - 2013) using technical diving operations: 2011 (NODC Accession 0104344): NOAA's Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), Silver Spring, MD.
Horizontal positions are specified in geographic coordinates, that is, latitude and longitude. Latitudes are given to the nearest 0.00001. Longitudes are given to the nearest 0.00001. Latitude and longitude values are specified in Decimal degrees.
This is a cooperative effort between NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch, NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries Program and Texas A&M Galveston
1) To design an appropriate sampling and monitoring strategies for fish and benthic community sampling, as well as data collection, during the first year funding, 2) during subsequent years, focus on refinement of the sampling strategies and continuing to build on the baseline dataset, 3) groundtruthing and collection of underwater imagery and video to improve existing map products, 4) the banks begin at 150m depth and reach to within 17m of the water's surface, therefore multiple survey techniques will need to be employed using a random stratified sampling design. An ROV will be utilized to survey the deeper water communities, a combination of divers and technical divers will survey the banks down to ~50m, and ship-based hydroacoustics will be utilized to survey fish densities over the entire depth range; and 5) to analyze the information gathered to help guide sanctuary resource management decisions.
Data were collected on the following:
1) Logistic information - diver name, dive buddy, date, time of survey, site code, and meter numbers at which the quadrat is placed.
2) Habitat structure - To characterize the benthic habitats of the dive site, the habitat diver identified the percentage of high- and low relief coral structure within a 25m radius circle of the centroid of the sampling unit.
3) Transect depth profile - the depth at each quadrat position. Depth is measured with a digital depth gauge to the nearest 1ft.
4) Abiotic footprint - defined as the percent cover (to the nearest 1%) of sand, rubble, hard bottom, fine sediments, and other non-living bottom types within a 1m2 quadrat. Rubble refers to rocks and coral fragments that are moveable; immovable rocks are considered hard bottom. The percent cover given as a part of the abiotic footprint should total 100%. In a hard coral area for example, despite the fact that living hard corals may provide 50% cover the underlying substrate is 100% hard substrate so this is what is recorded. The diver then estimates the height (in centimeters) of the hardbottom within each quadrat from the substrate to get a sense of bottom relief.
5) Biotic footprint - defined as the percent cover (to the nearest 0.1%) of macroalgae, live corals, sponges, gorgonians, and other biota (tunicates, anemones, zooanthids and hydroids) within a 1m2 quadrat. The remaining cover is recorded as bare substrate to bring the total to 100%. Again, the diver must use a planar view to estimate percent cover of the biota. Species covering less than 0.1% of the area are not recorded. Taxa are identified to the following levels: stony coral-species, algae-morphological group (macro, turf, crustose), sponge-morphological group, and gorgonians-morphological group. For stony corals, the approximate area covered by living coral tissue is recorded. Coral skeleton (without living tissue) is usually categorized as turf algae or uncolonized substrate. Data on the condition of coral colonies are also recorded. When coral is noticeably bleached, the entire colony is considered affected and is recorded to the nearest 0.1%. Diseased/dead coral refers to coral skeleton that has recently lost living tissue because of disease or damage, and has not yet been colonized by turf algae. Turf algae include a mix of short (less than 1cm high) algae that colonize dead coral substrate.
6) Maximum canopy height - for each soft biota type (e.g., gorgonians, sponges-except encrusting form, algae), maximum height is recorded to the nearest 1cm.
7) Abundance of queen conchs (Strombus gigas) - conch encountered within the 25m x 4m belt transect are enumerated.
8) Abundance of spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) - a count of the total number of lobsters encountered within the 25m x 4m belt transect.
9) Abundance of long-spined urchin (Diadema antillarium) - a count of the total number of urchins encountered within the 25m x 4m belt transect.
10) Photos - 2 photos are taken in opposite directions at each location to document the surrounding habitat. Additional photos may be taken to document disease, bleaching or other events of note.
11) Marine debris - type of marine debris within the transect is noted. The size of the marine debris and area of habitat that it is affecting is also recorded along with a note identifying any flora or fauna that has colonized it.
These data consists of percent cover, abundance, size, and composition of benthic communities of the coral caps within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) at depths between 110 and 150 feet. For 2011, sites were randomly selected within strata (East and West Bank, low and high relief coral).
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