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Reef communities in the Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA): Baseline surveys for the new no-take area

September 1, 2008

To understand the current community structure on reefs in the Dry Tortugas, we conducted specieslevel surveys of macroalgae, coral diversity, herbivorous and game fishes, urchins, and substratum composition (e.g., rugosity) in shallow (3- to 5-m depth) low-relief reef and hardbottom habitats in October 2007. We had particular interest in the ecological process of herbivory inside and outside of the “no-take” Research Natural Area (RNA) designated by the U.S. National Park Service in 2007, and establishing a baseline to assess future changes to trophic functioning. Diadema antillarum and herbivorous fish abundance, percent cover of macroalgae, and species richness of corals and gorgonians at the 18 randomly selected survey sites were not significantly different inside vs. outside of the RNA. Mean densities of D. antillarum ranged from 0.01 to 0.54 individuals m-2, with 11 of the 18 sites having densities above 0.10 individuals m-2. Both D. antillarum density and coral species richness were positively correlated to rugosity of the substratum. Diadema antillarum density was also positively related to percentage of the substratum composed of Acropora cervicornis rubble. Improved trophic functioning and increases in D. antillarum can improve reef condition in the Dry Tortugas, and the RNA is an important management tool to achieve increases in reef resilience to global-scale stressors.

Publication Year 2008
Title Reef communities in the Dry Tortugas (Florida, USA): Baseline surveys for the new no-take area
Authors I. B. Kuffner, V. J. Paul, R. Ritson-Williams, T. D. Hickey, L. J. Walters
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70176198
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center