Baseline assessment of the 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 the 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 (CIORET).
  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 the 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: Aug-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 percent cover, abundance, size, and composition of benthic communities 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: Sep-2012 (process 1 of 1)
    A stratified random sampling design was employed to sample fish and benthic communities on the shallow coral cap communities of the East and West Flower Garden Banks. The survey domain at each coral cap was designated as all hard bottom areas shallower than 110'. 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. Each grid cell was considered a sample unit and units were divided into six strata. Strata were defined using benthic habitat and location. 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. 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 benthic composition. This diver followed the belt-transect fish diver and recorded data on small-scale benthic habitat composition and structure within a 1m2 quadrat divided into 100 (10 x 10cm) squares at 4 separate positions along the transect. Each position was randomly chosen before entering the water such that there was one random point within every 6m interval along the transect. Percent cover was obtained as if looking at the quadrat in a two dimensional plane (i.e. a photograph) vs. three dimensions where percent cover could add up to greater than 100%. To estimate percent cover, the diver first positioned the quadrat at the chosen meter mark along a randomly chosen side of the transect tape. The remaining quadrats were placed on alternating sides of the transect at the last three locations. 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.

  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 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).

  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:
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
Metadata standard:
Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (FGDC-STD-001-1998)

Generated by mp version 2.9.13 on Thu Oct 19 09:46:46 2017