[Coral-List] Update - Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Coral Mortality Event

Emma Hickerson - NOAA Federal emma.hickerson at noaa.gov
Tue Aug 9 18:06:28 EDT 2016

As previously reported, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
(FGBNMS) has been responding to a coral mortality event at the East Flower
Garden Bank.   The second of two response cruises returned August 7, 2016
with hopeful reports that the event appears to no longer be active, except
for some discrete areas.  Based on the limited surveys we have conducted,
approximately 6.5 acres of the coral reef has greater than 15% of the coral
affected by the mortality event, with a maximum of 70% affected corals in
localized areas.   This represents around 6.3% of the coral reef cap
shallower than 90 ft at the East Flower Garden Bank.  During this cruise
divers from FGBNMS and University North Carolina conducted 23 photo
transects, scooter surveys, and collected over 300 samples of corals and
sponges, both affected and unaffected, as well as directed water samples in
discrete areas on the impacted reef areas. These samples will be analyzed
to look at the micro-organism communities, and also genetic markers that
may indicate specific types of stress.  Texas A&M University (TAMU)
deployed a glider that will be running transects throughout the area to
continue characterization the water column.

The first cruise (July 30-August 2) with TAMU focused on collection of
water samples and conducting CTD casts throughout the area to measure
temperature and salinity and other oceanographic parameters.

This is a very unusual event. It is still unclear what caused the coral
(and associated organism) mortality.

The FGBNMS plans to continue monitoring the location to document the
recovery over time – more frequently in the short term, and then annually.
They will also be monitoring for possible re-activation of the event.

We are asking that divers and fishers avoid the most heavily impacted areas
– around EFGB buoys 4, 5, and 6 - to lessen the impacts on an already
extremely stressed reef, and to limit the possibility of transfer to
healthy areas.

Recent images are posted on the FGBNMS FaceBook page:
http://www.facebook.com/fgbnms. Updates will also be posted here:

Emma L. Hickerson
Flower Garden Banks NMS
Research Coordinator
4700 Ave. U, Bldg 216
Galveston, TX 77551
409-621-5151 ext. 111
979-777-3895 cell
emma.hickerson at noaa.gov

Find us on FaceBook:  http://www.facebook.com/fgbnms
Watch Window in the Waves: www.lpb.org/waves

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