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USGS Open-File Report 2008-1330

Biological Communities and Geomorphology of Patch Reefs in Biscayne National Park, Florida, U.S.A.


Coral reef ecosystem management benefits from continual, quantitative assessment of the resources being managed, plus assessment of factors that affect distribution patterns of organisms in the ecosystem. In this study, we investigated the relationships among physical, benthic, and fish variables in effort to help explain the distribution patterns of ecologically and economically important species on twelve patch reefs within Biscayne National Park (BNP), Florida, U.S.A. We visited 196 randomly-located sampling stations across twelve shallow (< 10m) patch reefs, using SCUBA to conduct our surveys. We measured physical variables (e.g., substratum type), estimated the percent cover of benthic community members (e.g., coral, algae), and counted and estimated mean size for each fish species observed. We also used high-density bathymetric data collected remotely via airborne laser surveying (Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL)) to calculate rugosity (bumpiness) of the reef habitat. Here we present our findings visually by graphing our quantitative community and physical structure data simultaneously in a GIS map format. You will see that biological organisms arrange themselves on each patch reef in a non-random manner. For example, many species of fish prefer to locate themselves in areas of the reef where the rugosity index is high. Rugose parts of the reef provide them with good hiding places from predators.

These maps (and the data used to create them) are permanent records of the status of reef resources found on these twelve patch reefs in BNP as of September, 2003. The survey data found in the shapefile located on this CD product includes benthic percent cover data for algae, coral, encrusting invertebrates, and substratum type, in addition to gorgonian abundance and volume, total fish abundance and species richness, and specific counts for Acanthurids (surgeonfish), Scarids (parrotfish), Lutjanids (snappers), Haemulids (grunts), Serranids (groupers), and Pomacentrids (damselfish).

For further reading, please see:

  • Kuffner IB, Brock JC, Grober-Dunsmore R, Bonito VE, Hickey TD, Wright CW (2007) Relationships between reef fish communities and remotely sensed rugosity measurements in Biscayne National Park, Florida, U.S.A. Environmental Biology of Fishes 78: 71-82

  • Kuffner IB, Brock JC, Grober-Dunsmore LE, Bonito VE, Hickey TD (in USGS review) Patch reef community structure in Biscayne National Park, Florida, U.S.A.

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