Baseline assessment of fish and benthic communities of the Flower Garden Banks (NODC Accession 0118358)

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Frequently anticipated questions:

What does this data set describe?

Baseline assessment of fish and benthic communities of the Flower Garden Banks (NODC Accession 0118358)
The proposed work develop baseline information on fish and benthic communities within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). Surveys will employ diving, technical diving, ROV, and hydroacoustics technologies for a comprehensive assessment of the fish and benthic habitat communities of the East and West Bank. The FGBNMS represents the northernmost tropical western Atlantic coral reef on the continental shelf and support the most highly developed offshore hard bank community in the region. The complexity of habitats supports a diverse assemblage of organisms including approximately 250 species of fish, 23 species of coral, and 80 species of algae in addition to large sponge communities. Understanding and monitoring these resources is critical to both sanctuary inventory and management activities. During the course of the sanctuary's management plan review process, the impact of fishing was identified as a priority issue, and the concept of a research only area was suggested. The purpose of this project will be to provide baseline data for all benthic habitats and communities.
This work is being conducted in collaboration with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS), Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR), NOAA's Center for Coastal Environment and Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT).
  1. How should this data set be cited?

    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 fish and benthic communities of the Flower Garden Banks (NODC Accession 0118358): NOAA's Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), Silver Spring, MD.

    Online Links:

  2. What geographic area does the data set cover?

    West_Bounding_Coordinate: -93.82
    East_Bounding_Coordinate: -93.59
    North_Bounding_Coordinate: 27.92
    South_Bounding_Coordinate: 27.87

  3. What does it look like?

  4. Does the data set describe conditions during a particular time period?

    Beginning_Date: May-2009
    Ending_Date: Sep-2012
    Currentness_Reference: Ground Condition

  5. What is the general form of this data set?

  6. How does the data set represent geographic features?

    1. How are geographic features stored in the data set?

    2. What coordinate system is used to represent geographic features?

      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.

  7. How does the data set describe geographic features?

    We supply abundance and size information of fish species at the lowest possible taxonomic level across all diveable portions of the coral caps within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). In addition, we provide photographs of many of the taxa. For specific information please see the data dictionary available on the database website.
    Entity_and_Attribute_Detail_Citation: NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA/Biogeography Branch

Who produced the data set?

  1. Who are the originators of the data set? (may include formal authors, digital compilers, and editors)

  2. Who also contributed to the data set?

    This is a cooperative effort between NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch and NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries Program

  3. To whom should users address questions about the data?

    NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA/Biogeography Branch
    Flower Garden Banks Project Principle Investigator-Randy Clark
    1021 Balch Blvd, Suite 1003
    Stennis Space Center, MS 39529

    228-688-3732 (voice)

    Hours_of_Service: 9:00 - 5:00

Why was the data set created?

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.

How was the data set created?

  1. From what previous works were the data drawn?

  2. How were the data generated, processed, and modified?

    Date: Dec-2011 (process 1 of 1)
    A stratified random sampling design was employed to sample fish on the coral cap communities of the East and West Flower Garden Banks. The survey domain at each coral cap was designated as all areas shallower than 110 feet below sea level. Fine-scale (0.5 m) bathymetric data provided by the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was used to ascertain depths and slope. Survey sites were then randomly positioned in each stratum in ArcGIS (ESRI, 2006). A sample frame consisting of mutually-exclusive 50m X 50m grid cells was produced and overlaid on each coral cap to exhaustively cover all diveable areas (i.e <110ft). Each grid cell was considered a sample unit and units were divided into six strata. Strata were defined using benthic habitat, location and depth. High (dominated by plate and head corals) and low relief (dominated by Madracis and rubble) coral categories were determined using a benthic habitat map generated by visual interpretation of multibeam data. Units were divided into deep (>105 ft) and shallow (<105ft) groups based on the location of sampling unit centroids on multibeam bathymetric models. Location and high relief coral categories were divided by depth, low relief coral was not. Data were collected within 100m2 transects. Transects radiated from the centroid of each sample unit at a random bearing. Once in the field, the boat captain navigated to previously selected sites using a handheld GPS unit. On-site, divers were deployed and maintained contact with each other throughout the entire census. One diver was responsible for collecting data on the fish communities utilizing the belt-transect visual census technique over an area of 100m2 (25m length X 4m width). The belt-transect diver obtained a random compass heading for the transect prior to entering the water and recorded the compass bearing (0-360o) on the data sheet. Visibility at each site must be sufficient to allow for identification of fish at a minimum of 2m away. Once reasonable visibility was ascertained, the diver attached a tape measure to the substrate and allowed it to roll out for 25m while they collected data. As a rule, the habitat was not altered in any manner by lifting or moving structure, however, the observer did record fish seen in holes, under ledges and in the water column. To identify, enumerate, or locate new individuals, divers moved off the centerline of the transect as long as they stayed within the 4m transect width and did not look back along area already covered. The diver was allowed to look forward toward the end of the transect for the distance remaining (i.e. if the diver was at meter 15, he can look 10 meters distant, but if he was at meter 23, he could only look 2 meters ahead). On-site, no attempt to avoid structural features within a habitat such as a sand patch or an anchor was made as these features affect fish communities and are "real" features of the habitats. The only instance where the transect deviated from the designated path was to stay above 110 ft. Transect lasted 15 minutes regardless of habitat type or number of animals present. This allowed more mobile animals the opportunity to swim through the transect, and standardized the samples collected to allow for comparisons. Data were collected on the following: 1) Logistic information - diver name, dive buddy, date, time of survey, site code, transect bearing. 2) Taxa presence - as the tape roles out at a relatively constant speed, the diver records all fish species to the lowest taxonomic level possible that come within 2m of either side of the transect. To decrease the total time spent writing, four letter codes are used that consist of the first two letters of the genus name followed by the first two letters of the species name. In the rare case that two species have the same four-letter code, alternate four-letter codes are used to distinguish between the species. These alternate codes contain the first two letters of the genus, the first letter of the species and then the first letter in the species name that differs from the other code. If the fish can only be identified to the family or genus level then this is all that is recorded. If the fish cannot be identified to the family level then no entry is necessary. 3) Abundance & size - the number of individuals per species is tallied in 5cm size class increments up to 35cm using visual estimation of fork length. If an individual is greater than 35cm, then an estimate of the actual fork length is recorded. 4) Photos - individuals too difficult to identify or unique in some manner may be photographed for later clarification.

  3. What similar or related data should the user be aware of?

How reliable are the data; what problems remain in the data set?

  1. How well have the observations been checked?

  2. How accurate are the geographic locations?

  3. How accurate are the heights or depths?

  4. Where are the gaps in the data? What is missing?

    These data consist of multiple fish community surveys across all diveable portions of the coral caps within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). Sites were randomly selected within strata (East and West Bank, low and high relief coral and depth).

  5. How consistent are the relationships among the observations, including topology?

    Not applicable

How can someone get a copy of the data set?

Are there legal restrictions on access or use of the data?

Access_Constraints: None
Please reference NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA/Biogeography Branch when utilizing these data in a report or peer reviewed publication. Additionally, knowledge of how this dataset has been of use and which organizations are utilizing it is of great benefit for ensuring this information continues to meet the needs of the management and research communities. Therefore, it is requested but not mandatory, that any user of these data supply this information to the Principle Investigator: Randy Clark (email:

  1. Who distributes the data set? (Distributor 1 of 1)

    NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA/Biogeography Branch
    Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Database Manager
    1305 East-West Hwy. (SSMC4, N/SCI-1)
    Silver Spring, MD 20910

    301-713-3028 (voice)

    Hours_of_Service: 9:00 - 5:00
  2. What's the catalog number I need to order this data set?

    Downloadable Data

  3. What legal disclaimers am I supposed to read?

    These data were prepared by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, make any warranty, expressed or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference therein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. Any views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof. Although all data have been used by NOAA, no warranty, expressed or implied, is made by NOAA as to the accuracy of the data and/or related materials. The act of distribution shall not constitute any such warranty, and no responsibility is assumed by NOAA in the use of these data or related materials. NOAA makes no warranty regarding these data, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty. NOAA can not assume liability for and damages caused by any errors or omissions in these data, nor as a result of the failure of these data to function on a particular system.

  4. How can I download or order the data?

Who wrote the metadata?

Last modified: 27-Apr-2017
Last Reviewed: 17-Dec-2011
Metadata author:
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary-Emma Hickerson
4700 Avenue U. Building 216
Galveston, TX 77551

409-621-5151 ext. 111 (voice)

Hours_of_Service: 9:00 - 5:00
Metadata standard:
Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (FGDC-STD-001-1998)

Generated by mp version 2.9.13 on Thu Jan 18 09:44:19 2018