This report summarizes the distribution and relative abundance of two stony coral species (Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata) currently listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) (Federal Register/Vol. 71, No. 129/Thursday, July 6, 2006 / Rules and Regulations, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2006-07-06/pdf/06-6017.pdf) and seven additional stony coral species which have been petitioned for listing as endangered or threatened under the ESA (Agaricia lamarcki, Dendrogyra cylindrus, Dichocoenia stokesii, Montastraea annularis, Montastraea faveolata, Montastraea franksi, and Mycetophyllia ferox) (Federal Register/Vol. 75, No. 27/Wednesday, February 10, 2010/Proposed Rules, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/fr/fr75-6616.pdf). This report also summarizes the abundance and distribution of small recreational vessel anchors observed within the study area for this survey effort.
This effort was guided by the NOAA Fisheries Service’s recommended survey protocol (http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdf/RecommendedSurveyProtocolforAcropora.pdf). This protocol was designed for surveying the distribution and abundance of Acropora spp. utilizing a 2-tiered survey approach. The protocol recommends data collection at 1 sampling site per every 10,000 m² within the project area. The first tier is a rapid assessment of the site to locate any occurrences of Acropora spp. The second tier is a more comprehensive effort designed to provide greater detail on colony abundance, size, and condition. If five or more Acropora colonies are identified during the tier 1 effort, a tier 2 effort is conducted. The seven candidate species were also included in the tier 1 sampling effort. No tier 2 effort was conducted for the seven candidate species. The number of small recreational vessel anchors seen during the tier 1 effort was also included.
The project area included eight coral reef habitats found in depths less than 30m (Walker et al. 2008). These habitats included, from nearshore to offshore: colonized pavement-shallow, ridge shallow, inner linear reef, middle linear reef, colonized pavement-deep, outer linear reef, spur and groove, and aggregated patch reefs. Within these habitats in the project area, 376 sites were sampled (tier 1 sites).
No Acropora palmata colonies were identified during this effort. Acropora cervicorniswas identified within 45 of the 376 tier 1 sites. A majority of these sites were within the nearshore habitats (colonized pavement-shallow, ridge-shallow, and inner linear reef) in depths less than 10m. Of these 45 sites, 29 had more than five colonies identified and were included in the tier 2 effort.
All seven candidate species were identified at the tier 1 sites within the project area during the effort: Dichocoenia stokesii (344 sites), Montastraea faveolata (291 sites), Agaricia lamarcki (155 sites), Montastraea annularis (85 sites); Montastraea franksi (74 sites), Mycetophyllia ferox (24 sites), and Dendrogyra cylindrus (4 sites). D. stokesii was abundant in all habitats with more than five colonies identified in 228 sites. The middle reef supported the highest abundance of M. faveolata. More than five colonies of M. faveolatawere identified in 188 sites, and 11 sites had more than 50 colonies identified. A. lamarkicolonies were identified at nearly all of the colonized pavement-deep, outer reef, spur and groove, and aggregated patch reef; no colonies were identified in the nearshore colonized pavement-shallow and ridge-shallow habitats. Fifty sites had more than five colonies identified, and 29 sites had more than 10 colonies identified.
Fourteen sites supported more than five colonies of M. annularis, and four sites in the middle linear reef habitat had more than 10 colonies identified. M. franksi colonies were identified in all habitats except the ridge shallow habitat; more than five colonies of M. franksi were identified in 15 sites, and the middle linear reef supported the highest abundance of colonies. More than five colonies of D. cylindricus and M. feroxwere not identified in any of the 376 tier one sites during the survey.
Anchors were counted at 149 of the 376 tier 1 sites. Anchors were observed in all eight habitats. The maximum number of anchors seen at one site was eight, and 65 sites had two or more anchors.
Protected Stony Coral Species Assessment
David S. Gilliam and Brian K. Walker. 2011. Benthic Habitat Characterization for the South Florida Ocean Measurement Facility (SFOMF) .Protected Stony Coral Species Assessment : 1 -54. http://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facreports/43.