Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Gray's Reef 2012 Condition Report Addendum

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This document is an addendum to the Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary 2008 Condition Report (ONMS 2008). The 2008 report provided a summary of resources in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary), pressures on those resources, current conditions and trends, and management responses to the pressures that threaten the integrity of the marine environment. Specifically, the 2008 Condition Report presented responses to a set of 17 questions posed to all sanctuaries. These responses provided information on the status and trends of water quality, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources, and the human activities that affect them. The 2008 report can be downloaded from the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries website.

This addendum updates the 2008 Condition Report (ONMS 2008). The 17 questions found in the "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of the Condition Report have been reevaluated for accuracy and completeness given new data sets, published literature, and expert opinion that have become available since 2008. For those that have new information to report (questions 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 14), new status and trend ratings and updated narratives are provided. Trend ratings are generally based on observed changes in status since 2008.

In order to readdress the set of 17 questions, sanctuary staff consulted with a group of outside experts familiar with the resources and with knowledge of previous and current scientific investigations in the sanctuary. Evaluations of status and trends are based on interpretation of quantitative and, when necessary, qualitative assessments, and the observations of scientists, managers and users. The ratings reflect the collective interpretation of the status of local issues of concern among sanctuary system staff and outside experts based on their knowledge and perception of local problems. The final ratings were determined by sanctuary staff. This report has been peer reviewed and complies with the White House Office of Management and Budget's peer review standards as outlined in the Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review.

This is the second effort to comprehensively describe the status and trends of resources at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The report helps identify gaps in current monitoring efforts, as well as causal factors that may require monitoring and potential remediation in the years to come. The data discussed will not only enable resource managers and stakeholders to acknowledge prior changes in resource status, but will provide guidance for future management challenges, including the revision of the Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Management Plan.

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Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Condition Summary Table
The following table summarizes the "State of Sanctuary Resources" section of this report. The first two columns list 17 questions used to rate the condition and trends for qualities of water, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources. The Rating column consists of a color, indicating resource condition, and a symbol, indicating trend (see key for definitions). The Basis for Judgment column provides a short statement or list of criteria used to justify the rating. The Description of Findings column presents the statement that best characterizes resource status, and corresponds to the assigned color rating. The Description of Findings statements are customized for all possible ratings for each question. Please see Appendix A for further clarification of the questions and the Description of Findings statements. The Response column describes current or proposed management responses to pressures impacting sanctuary resources. Questions that have new information to report since the 2008 Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report (ONMS 2008) are those with red numbers (questions 1, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 14).

key


  Questions/
Resources
Rating Basis For Judgement Description Findings Sanctuary Response
WATER
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality and how are they changing?
Limited data since 2000 suggest comparatively unaltered oxygen, temperature, and salinity, and some contaminants, but below EPA guidelines. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or habitat quality. Recognized challenges due to coastal and inland development, population increases and climate change.

Continue monitoring for nutrient levels, contaminants and indicators of climate change.
2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?
?
Stable nutrients, chlorophyll, lack of harmful algal blooms Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or habitat quality.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health and how are they changing?
hyphen
2000 baseline, 2005 indicators below EPA Levels of Concern Selected conditions that have the potential to affect human health may exist, but human impacts have not been reported.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
hyphen
Increasing, but little evidence of negative effects Few or no activities occur that are likely to negatively affect water quality.
HABITAT
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
?
New map data recently collected; assessment of trends awaits comparison to earlier data. Habitats are in pristine or near-pristine condition and are unlikely to preclude full community development. Final management plan contains anchoring prohibition and outreach plans, and marine debris outreach, education and monitoring programs.

Sanctuary will enhance ongoing science to better understand biologically-structured habitat, continue monitoring benthic fauna and sediment quality, and conduct studies in research area to discern between human-induced and natural changes.
6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?
?
Recent data on biological assemblages suggest ephemeral nature of predominant human impacts (anchoring, fishing). Habitats are in pristine or near-pristine condition and are unlikely to preclude full community development.
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?
hyphen
Low levels in 2000 and 2005 Contaminants do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or water quality.
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
Human impacts localized within areas of heavy use. Selected activities have resulted in measurable habitat impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
LIVING RESOURCES
9.What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
High diversity of sessile invertebrates, benthic infaunal invertebrate density and abundance, and algal abundance and diversity. Biodiversity appears to reflect pristine or near-pristine conditions and promotes ecosystem integrity (full community development and function). Fishing is limited to rod and reel and handline. Spearfishing is now prohibited. Regulations prohibit divers from taking marine organisms. A research area has been designated to evaluate impacts of bottom fishing. Education and outreach programs are in place that promote good diving techniques.

Monitoring will continue for invasive species.

Sanctuary will confirm and characterize key species, conduct analysis of sponge mortality samples and monitor key species.
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
Recent data showing improvements in black sea bass and red snapper; need more data on non-targeted species to assess ecosystem impacts. Extraction may inhibit full community development and function, and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity.
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
Occasional lionfish sightings in sanctuary since 2007; titan acorn barnacle, Asian green mussel and orange cup coral currently only found on manmade structures. Non-indigenous species exist, precluding full community development and function, but are unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation of ecosystem integrity.
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
Recent improvements in black sea bass and red snapper populations. Selected key or keystone species are at reduced levels, perhaps precluding full community development and function, but substantial or persistent declines are not expected.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
?
Key species tentatively identified but unable to determine condition and health; some contaminants detected in sponges, but cause of mortality undetermined N/A
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
Localized within areas of heavy use, with reduced pressure in certain areas due to management actions and the status of the economy, but trend data limited, suggesting a significant monitoring gap. Selected activities have resulted in measurable living resource impacts, but evidence suggests effects are localized, not widespread.
MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
N/A
No archaeological evidence, though former human occupation remains a possibility based on paleontological data N/A Anchoring has been banned, in part to reduce threat to archaeological resources.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and is this threat changing?
N/A
No archaeological evidence, though former human occupation remains a possibility based on paleontological data N/A
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
hyphen
Potential for diving, fishing and anchoring to damage sites Some potentially relevant activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on maritime archaeological resource integrity.

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