The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) funded in partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District, and other Federal, local and Tribal members has in its mandate a guideline to protect and restore freshwater flows to coastal environments to pre-1940s conditions (CERP, 1999). Historic salinity data are sparse for Florida Bay, so it is difficult for water managers to decide what the correct quantity, quality, timing, and distribution of freshwater are to maintain a healthy and productive estuarine ecosystem. Proxy records of seasurface temperature (SST) and salinity have proven useful in south Florida. Trace-element chemistry on foraminifera and molluscan shells preserved in shallow-water sediments has provided some information on historical salinity and temperature variability in coastal settings, but little information is available for areas within the main part of Florida Bay (Brewster-Wingard and others, 1996). Geochemistry of coral skeletons can be used to develop subannually resolved proxy records for SST and salinity. Previous studies suggest corals, specifically Solenastrea bournoni, present in the lower section of Florida Bay near Lignumvitae Key, may be suitable for developing records of SST and salinity for the past century, but the distribution and species composition of the bay coral community have not been well documented (Hudson and others, 1989; Swart and others, 1999). Oddly, S. bournoni thrives in the study area because it can grow on a sandy substratum and can tolerate highly turbid water. Solenastrea bournoni coral heads in this area should be ideally located to provide a record (~100-150 years) of past temperature and salinity variations in Florida Bay. The goal of this study was to utilize the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Along-Track Reef Imaging System (ATRIS) capability to further our understanding of the abundance, distribution, and size of corals in the Lignumvitae Key Basin. The study area was subdivided into four areas whereby corals and other benthic habitats were classified based on ATRIS imagery.
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USGS Numbered Series
Benthic habitat classification in Lignumvitae Key Basin, Florida Bay, using the U.S. Geological Survey Along-Track Reef Imaging System (ATRIS)