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The team will conduct benthic surveys inside and outside the no take Research Natural Area at Dry Tortugas National Park (DRTO) to understand the processes of herbivory, or grazing, on coral reefs.

Relict Holocene coral-reef framework in the Dry Tortugas National Park
Relict Holocene coral-reef framework in the Florida Keys. Like many reefs in the western Atlantic, reefs here were just a few coral species: primary Acropora palmata and Orbicella spp. Recent disturbances have led to declines in the populations of those corals and relative increases in the abundance of more weedy taxa. The photograph was collected during fieldwork under permit DRTO-2018-SCI-0005 from the National Park Service.

Dr. Ilsa Kuffner is leading a team comprised of Nesti Stathakopoulos, BJ Reynolds, and Erin Lyons to complete coral-reef benthic surveys within and outside of the “no-take” Research Natural Area (RNA) at Dry Tortugas National Park. Their surveys will quantify the abundance of herbivores and macroalgae, and species richness of corals and gorgonians, and will be compared to baseline data collected in 2007—the year in which the RNA was established. The 2021 surveys will allow the team to detect changes in fish or benthic communities since the inception of the RNA regulations 14 years ago. These data will help assess changes to coral reef ecosystem food webs resulting from the 2007 management regulations and help park managers better understand the community structure on reefs in the Dry Tortugas.

For more information, see: "11th International Coral Reef Symposium Proceedings."

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