This study utilized ROV photograph transects to quantify benthic habitat and coral communities among the five habitat types (algal nodule, coralline algal reefs, deep reefs and soft bottom) identified in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). ROV surveys were conducted in the mid and lower mesophotic zone of the sanctuary (17-150 m) on both the East Bank and the 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 is to provide baseline data for all benthic habitats and coral communities.
1) To design appropriate sampling and monitoring strategies for benthic community sampling, as well as data collection, 2) To build a baseline dataset on coral communities and benthic habitats, 3) Ground-truthing and collection of underwater imagery and video to improve existing map products, and 4) To analyze the information gathered to help guide sanctuary resource management decisions.
This work is being conducted in collaboration with the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS), Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR), NOAAs Center for Coastal Environment and Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), NOAAs Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT).
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: Dr. Joshua Voss (email: email@example.com).
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This is a cooperative effort between NOAA/NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Branch, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research (CCFHR), NOAAs Center for Coastal Environment and Health and Biomolecular Research (CCEHBR), NOAAs Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) and NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries Program
These data consist of benthic habitat and coral community photographic 100m ROV transect surveys within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). Sites were selected using a stratified random design in ArcMaps GIS sampling design tool across five habitats and two banks (East and West Bank; Algal nodule, Coralline algal reef, Coral reef cap, Deep reef, and Soft bottom).
A stratified random design was employed with a 40,000 m2 sampling frame structure. Each frame was classified using the benthic habitat map biological zones. Each year (2010, 2011, 2012) site allocation was intended to be equitably distributed. Site selection was conducted with an ArcMap GIS sampling design tool. The survey design used a stratified random approach with five habitat types (algal nodule, coral reef cap, coralline algae reef, deep reef, and soft bottom) and the two banks, East Bank (EB) and West Bank (WB). In the field and prior to ROV deployment, a select cluster of sites was chosen and conditions defined as to how the ROV will travel (e.g., under its own control or towed by the surface vessel). Under ideal conditions and when the ROV operator had good control of the ROV, sampling commenced as close as possible to the centroid of each sampling point, or, if conditions hindered ROV handling, sampling began within the 200 m2 grid cell. Transect speed was ¼ knot and followed the target habitat type for 100 m. In addition to high resolution still photos, tracking and depth information was also collected to provide real-time estimates of ROV depth and position on the seafloor. Benthic community information was collected along each transect using a digital still camera positioned underneath the ROV and facing the seafloor. Still photos of the seafloor were taken by the ROV every 30 seconds with the ROV positioned approximately 1 m from the bottom. Photos were scaled using ROV mounted lasers and images were analyzed in CPCe. Fifty points were randomly transposed over each image and the benthic type under the point was recorded. Generally, bare soft bottom, bare hard bottom, and biota were identified. Within biota, cnidarians in the Class Alcyonacea and in the Order Antipatharia were identified to the family level. Cnidarians in the Order Scleractinia were identified to species level. Algae were identified to Phylum, and sponges were identified to Class. When the area under a point could not be identified, a label of unidentifiable was used. All fish, mollusk, echinoderm, bacterial mat, and unidentifiable points were omitted from the family and species level analyses. The density of each coral taxon was quantified by counting individuals within all images for each transect.
We supply benthic habitat percentage cover and coral community desnity information at the lowest possible taxonomic level across all habitats within the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS). In addition, we provide photographs from the ROV.
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