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Characterization of the Mesophotic Benthic Habitat and Fish Assemblages from ROV Dives on Pulley Ridge and Tortugas during 2012 and 2013 R/V Walton Smith Cruises

Author(s): Reed, John; Stephanie Farrington; Lt. Heather Moe; Stacey Harter; Dennis Hanisak; Andrew David


Name of Publisher: Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution - Florida Atlantic University

Place of Publication: Fort Pierce, FL

Publication Type: Cruise Report

Date of Publication: 2014

Reference Information: HBOI Technical Report Number 147, 51 pp.

Keywords: Pulley Ridge; Florida Keys; mesophotic; Dry Tortugas; coral reefs; benthic habitats; Gulf of Mexico

Abstract: Two research cruises were conducted in 2012 and 2013 to the region of Pulley Ridge and Dry Tortugas to study and survey the mesophotic reef communities and fish populations. The University of Miami’s R/V Walton Smith Cruise No. WS1213 was conducted from August 14 to 25, 2012 and Cruise No. WS1312 was conducted from August 12 to 27, 2013. Pulley Ridge is the deepest known photosynthetic coral reef in continental U.S. waters and is located in the Gulf of Mexico, 100 miles west of the Dry Tortugas at the far end of the Florida Keys. This research and cruises were funded by the NOAA-NOS-NCCOS grant titled ‘Connectivity of the Pulley Ridge - South Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem: Processes to Decision-Support Tools’. Ship and ROV time was funded in part by the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology (CIOERT) at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute-Florida Atlantic University (HBOI-FAU). This cruise was conducted in collaboration with the University of Miami, HBOICIOERT, NOAA Fisheries, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) which provided the UNCW Super Phantom S2 ROV. This Cruise Report provides a detailed characterization of the benthic habitat, benthic macrobiota, and fish populations for each ROV dive site. Appendix 1 provides the complete species list and percent cover of benthic biota and substrate for each site at Pulley Ridge (PR) and Tortugas (T). Appendix 2 lists the fish species and their densities for each site. Prior to the cruises, we pursued a statistically rigorous sampling protocol for the ROV surveys.

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