Research to Support Management of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Project Status: This project began in January 2010 and was completed in April 2014
We are conducting an assessment of biological resources in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to serve as the basis for future sanctuary management decisions. This baseline assessment will also guide placement of a research-only area that can serve as a control site to help assess impacts, including fishing, coral bleaching and disease, and the possible invasion of lionfish.
Why We Care
The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is located in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, about 97 nautical miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, and is one of the most pristine coral reefs in the region. The sanctuary’s extensive coral community supports a high abundance of coral reef fishes and associated marine organisms. Currently, officials are revising the sanctuary’s management plan to better gauge impacts from climate change, oil spills, fishing, and other human factors. Our assessment will provide a baseline from which to measure change in sanctuary resources into the future.
What We’re Doing
We are gathering ecosystem data to determine the boundary for the research area and to develop biological metrics to monitor and assess change. The objectives of this work are to:
Develop a sampling design and monitoring strategy for benthic (seafloor) fish communities in the sanctuary using four sampling methods: scuba-diving, technical diving, hydroacoustics, (sonar tuned to detecting fish), and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
Develop a quantitative baseline of information of the benthic fish communities, including their abundance, composition, and location with regard to seafloor habitat.
Recommend research area boundaries based on the data gathered.
Recommend key biological indicators that are the most sensitive for revealing impacts for use in future surveys.
Thus far, we have begun fish and benthic community data collection and have conducted ROV-, shallow SCUBA-, and technical SCUBA diving cruises. Hydroacoustic fish surveys have also been collected, and we developed a preliminary sampling design and a sampling design software tool for ArcGIS. Shallow- and ROV-cruises have taken place most recently.
Future products will include: a report on the development and analytical approach for the baseline information, field data, maps, images, and associated GIS tools.
Related Regions of Study: Gulf of Mexico, Texas
Primary Contacts: Chris Caldow, Randy Clark, Chris Taylor
Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management
Related NCCOS Centers: CCEHBR, CCFHR, CCMA