Long-Term Monitoring at East and West Flower Garden Bank: 2017 Annual Report
This report summarizes fish and benthic community observations and water quality data collected from East Flower Garden Bank and West Flower Garden Bank long-term monitoring study sites in 2017. East Flower Garden Bank and West Flower Garden Bank are part of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. The annual long-term monitoring program began in 1989, and is funded by NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. In 2017, mean coral cover was 51.46% within the East Flower Garden Bank study site and 56.36% within the West Flower Garden Bank study site. Mean macroalgae cover was 26.75% within the East Flower Garden Bank study site and 22.64% within the West Flower Garden Bank study site. Percent coral cover within repetitive study site photostations and at deep repetitive photostations ranged from 62–72%. The Orbicella species complex, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, accounted for the majority of the coral cover within the study sites. Fish surveys conducted in 2017 indicated an abundant and diverse reef fish community, predominated by the families Labridae and Pomacentridae. Water column temperatures cooled after Hurricane Harvey passed through the Gulf of Mexico in 2017, and coral bleaching at both banks was less than 2%. While a portion of EFGB was affected by a localized mortality event in July of 2016, and both banks were impacted by coral bleaching in the fall of 2016, coral cover within long- term monitoring study sites did not significantly decline in 2017, and no negative impacts to the reef were observed after Hurricane Harvey.
Benthic Community, Bleaching, Coral Ecosystem, Coral Mortality, Coral Reef, Fish Community, Long-Term Monitoring, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of Mexico, Marine Protected Area, Water Quality.