Characterizing Benthic Habitats in Two Marine Protected Areas on the West Florida Shelf

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Book Chapter

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CMECS, towed underwater video, Marine Protected Area, substrate, bathymetry, backscatter, Gulf of Mexico, West Florida Shelf

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A combined technology approach, using towed underwater video from the Camera-Based Assessment Survey System (C-BASS) and previously collected multibeam data, was used to characterize two concurrently established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) located between 60 and 180 m on the West Florida Shelf (WFS): Madison-Swanson and Steamboat Lumps. C-BASS video was used to characterize habitats, identify reef species such as groupers and snappers, and estimate populations and assemblages. Several previously undefined habitat characteristics were identified in C-BASS video imagery in these areas and added to a Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS)-based flowchart, developed to suit towed video analysis on the WFS, including high-relief hard bottom, moderate-relief hard bottom, low-relief hard bottom, and covered low-relief hard bottom.

In Madison-Swanson, the most commonly observed fishes were Lutjanidae spp., Priacanthidae spp., and Serranidae spp.; similarly, in Steamboat Lumps the most frequently encountered fishes were Lutjanidae spp. and Serranidae spp. Between the two MPAs, Madison-Swanson contained both higher abundance and diversity of fishes in the years observed with towed underwater video. Initial results of multivariate statistical analyses suggest habitat preferences of certain fish species, as well as substantial contributions from widespread sandy habitats to total fish abundance despite higher densities of fish over rocky habitats.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Characterizing Benthic Habitats in Two Marine Protected Areas on the West Florida Shelf, in P. T. Harris & E. Baker (Eds.), Seafloor Geomorphology as Benthic Habitat (2nd Ed.), Elsevier, p. 605-618