Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Walter C. Jaap, B.S.

Committee Member

James W. Porter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

George Yanev, Ph.D.


Octocoral, Gorgonia ventalina, Florida Keys, Percent Cover, Hurricane Georges


The Florida Keys Coral Reef Monitoring Project (CRMP) began video transect sampling in 1996 and has continuously monitored 107 Florida Keys stations through 2002. The video was downward pointing and produced images from which planar projection data were calculated to determine percent cover of living benthic organisms. An absence of data assessing correlation between octocoral percent cover and octocoral abundance motivated a study to compare octocoral percent cover with abundance data acquired from the same video transects. The methods employed to extract octocoral abundance data from videotape were validated. Temporal changes in octocoral abundance, size and taxonomic group were determined by examination of video transects of 28 randomly selected stations from 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2002. Size classes were defined as40cm (short, medium and tall respectively). Taxonomic groups were Gorgonia ventalina and "other octocorals" in three size classes, and Scleraxonia. An in situ study assessed the accuracy of video-derived counts.

Average densities of G. ventalina and Scleraxonia were consistently about one colony/m2. Other octocoral as a group averaged 7-9 colonies/m2. When summarized by height, short and tall averaged about 1-2 colonies/m2, while colonies between 10 and 40 cm in height consistently averaged about 6 colonies/m2.

Hurricane Georges, in September 1998, impacted the octocoral assemblage. Abundance declined most at stations near the storm center and stations in shallower water. Storm impact was related to octocoral height. Tall octocorals were removed more frequently than medium, short and encrusting forms. A dramatic increase of short individuals in 2002 is indicative of successful post-hurricane recruitment. By 2002, octocoral abundance had recovered to pre-hurricane levels.

This study demonstrated that abundance data can reliably be derived from archived video data, reinforcing the value of standardized video data archives. Octocoral abundance and octocoral percent cover are not strongly correlated because tall individuals disproportionately influence percent cover estimates. Nevertheless, trends in octocoral percent cover are reliable indicators of the trends in octocoral abundance.