Reef fishes are important biologic, ecologic, and economic resources of the marine
ecosystem which must be managed for sustainability. Until recently, there was no long-term
monitoring program in place to assess the condition of reef fish resources of the northern
Florida Reef Tract (FRT) (northern Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin
counties). An assessment/monitoring plan for the northern portion of the Florida reef tract
was designed through a joint cooperative effort by scientists at the University of Miami,
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) and
Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center (NSUOC). This report is a synoptic
compilation of a three-year data collection from all partner agencies, and includes data from
the 232, 324, and 308 sites or Primary Sampling Units (PSUs) sampled in 2012, 2013, and
2014, respectively. The majority of the field work was accomplished through funding
provided to NSUOC by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), with
supplementary funding provided by FDEP-CRCP. Significant amounts of data were also
collected by multiple Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) partner agencies that
were able to dedicate their time and resources to the project. Field sampling for each year
began in May and ran through October.
During the three-year study period, >560,000 individual fish of 289 species were recorded.
Total mean density for all sites and strata combined for all three years was 170 fishes/SSU
(Second-Stage Sample Unit = SSU or site, 177 m2
). For 2012, mean density was 151
fishes/SSU; in 2013 it was 168 fishes/SSU; and in 2014 it was 186 fishes/SSU. When low vs.
high slope strata were compared, the high slope strata showed higher fish density.
Multivariate analyses showed patterns in the reef fish communities associated with benthic
habitats. Water depth was a primary determinant of fish distribution with differences in
assemblages between shallow and deep sites. Also most of the surveys in the southern
regions (Broward-Miami, Deerfield, and South Palm Beach) clustered tightly together
indicating high similarity between communities in the deep habitats within these regions.
Conversely, fish communities in North Palm Beach and Martin were much more variable and
mostly separated in disparate areas of the plot. This suggests that the Martin and North Palm
Beach fish communities are distinctly different from the southern regions.
The dataset, in its entirety, provides the opportunity for further mining to examine individual
species and reef fish assemblage correlations with a host of abiotic and biotic variables. Thus,
from both management and ecological-sciences perspectives, these data are a valuable
resource. It is already clear there are significant differences in the geographic distribution of
reef fishes at local and regional scales. There are interacting strata and latitudinal differences
in total reef fish abundance, species distribution, sizes, and assemblage structure. The
combination of data from all three years provides a complete regional baseline fishery independent
Appearing as solitary forms in the fossil record more than 400 million years ago, corals are extremely ancient animals that evolved into modern reef-building forms over the last 25 million years. Continue Reading →
coral reef conservation program
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is a partnership between the NOAA Line Offices that work on coral reef issues: the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service. The CRCP brings together expertise from across NOAA for a multidisciplinary approach to managing and understanding coral reef ecosystems.
Contact CRCP →
NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program
SSMC4, 10th Floor
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
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NOAA's Coral Reef Information System
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