Long-term Monitoring at East and West Flower Garden Banks: 2018 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 2018. East Flower Garden Bank and West Flower Garden Bank are part of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 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 and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. In 2018, mean coral cover was 52% within the East Flower Garden Bank study site and 56% within the West Flower Garden Bank study site. Mean macroalgae cover was 35% within the East Flower Garden Bank study site and 27% within the West Flower Garden Bank study site. Mean coral cover within repetitive study site photostations and at deep repetitive photostations ranged from 64–75% at both banks. 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 2018 indicated an abundant reef fish community, dominated by the families Labridae and Pomacentridae. During 2018, water temperatures on the reef did not exceed 30oC and coral bleaching at both banks was less than 1%.
benthic community, coral ecosystem, coral reef, fish community, long-term monitoring, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of Mexico, marine protected area, water quality