Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller

Keywords

AGRRA, Benthic Community, Photo-transect, PRIMER

Abstract

The patch reefs located in Biscayne National Park (BNP) are some of the most northern reefs of the Florida reef system. The focus of my study is seven patch reefs that were first surveyed annually between 1977 and 1981, revealing 8% - 28% cover by scleractinian corals. An assessment of BNP patch reefs completed in 2000 reported that coral cover had decreased to approximately 0.4% - 10%. The once dominant species in the Florida reef tract, Acropora palmata and A. cervicornis, have rapidly declined over time and were not found in any transects during the 2000 survey.

This study is a re-assessment of the BNP patch reefs surveyed in 1977-1981. In addition, one patch reef from BNP and three in upper keys region of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) have been included (a total of 11 patch reefs, all with historical data available). This study found 2% - 13% coral cover at these 11 reefs using a photographic survey (Point Count) and 4% - 21% coral cover using Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) survey methods. These results are relatively similar to results reported for the same patch reefs in the 1990s and in 2002, indicating that the major changes occurred earlier with the extreme decline in Acropora spp. Montastraea annularis complex cover has also declined substantially at the BNP sites from 5.4% in 1977-81 to 1.3% in 2009.

Although the number of species recoded on the seven resurveyed BNP patch reefs was only 23, compared with 28 recorded in the 1977-81 study, all species are still present in the region surveyed, indicating no actual loss of over all species richness.

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