Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Keywords

Gulf of Mexico, Restoration, Disturbance ecology, Red tide, Epibenthos

Abstract

The West Florida Shelf (WFS) is one of the largest and most diversely-used continental shelf/slope systems in the world. The presence of paleoshorelines and scarped hardbottom outcrops (up to 4 m in relief) along the inner shelf (10-30 m depth) provide important habitat for a variety of infaunal, epifaunal, and fish assemblages that contribute to the productivity of the region. This dissertation will present a comprehensive overview of the geological, physical, and chemical settings of the inner West Florida Shelf, with particular focus on biological and ecological community dynamics of epibenthic macroinvertebrates, algae, and fish assemblages. Baseline and comparative data sets are presented in the form of historic and modern species lists, with focus on seasonal and intra-annual variations. Quantitative effects of disturbances (e.g., hurricanes, thermal stresses, and red tides) and subsequent recovery rates are discussed as they periodically perturb inner-shelf systems and can have significant effects on community structure. Benefits of and recommendations for using artificial reefs as restoration tools along the inner shelf, as mitigation for future disturbances, are presented.

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