Enhanced protection recommended for threatened bank systems within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Bank systems, clusters of shallow banks and associated channels located in the shallow waters between Florida Bay and the Florida Keys, are frequently damaged by vessel groundings. These seascape features provide a mosaic of essential fish habitat, such as juvenile nurseries and adult foraging and sheltering grounds for a wide range of species including high densities of economically important reef fishes.
Surveys of three bank systems showed their fish assemblages resembled those of coral reefs and had higher diversity and biomass than surrounding habitats. Given their integral role in the ecology of the Sanctuary and the vulnerability of bank systems to natural and man-made stressors, a recent Conservation Series report recommends additional protection through inclusion in a management zone better suited to protect the structure and function of these critical habitats.
This research was conducted in collaboration with the Sanctuary.
John S. Burke, W. Judson Kenworthy, T. Shay Viehman, Vanessa L. McDonough, and Brian Degan 2011. Biodiversity and Ecosystem function of Shallow Bank Systems within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS). Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series ONMS-12-03. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Silver Spring, MD. 45 pp.