Hermatypic corals flourished on reefs in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. Today, many of these relict reefs are mesophotic banks that have unique coral assemblages and provide critical habitat; however, the South Texas Banks (STB) lack quantitative surveys. Therefore, we used a remotely operated vehicle to conduct quantitative surveys of 5 banks: Baker, Aransas, Dream, Blackfish Ridge, and Harte. Coral communities, based on estimated coral densities (colonies/m2), significantly differed among banks for terraces, slopes, and overall (combined terrace and slope) communities for most banks examined. Within banks, terrace and slope communities significantly differed for all banks except Harte. Sea whips were the most abundant group on slopes and terraces of most banks and frequently contributed >50% to community similarities and dissimilarities, whereas sea fans and Antipathes frequently contributed >20%. Total coral abundance was twice as high and sea fans were 7 times more abundant on terraces than slopes. Among—bank differences in coral communities were highly correlated to geographic and geomorphic features, especially to bank area, rugosity, longitude, and number of site components. The drivers of these differences, their effects on ecosystem diversity and function, and the connectivity pathways within and among STB and other GOM banks require further investigation. Nevertheless, the observed diversity in community structure within and among banks should be considered in the development of monitoring, conservation, and management plans of these critical habitats.
Rodriguez, R., Easton, E., Shirley, T., Tunnell, J., & Hicks, D. (2018). Preliminary Multivariate Comparison of Coral Assemblages on Carbonate Banks in the Western Gulf of Mexico. Gulf and Caribbean Research, 29(1), 23–33. https://doi.org/10.18785/gcr.2901.11
Gulf and Caribbean Research