A zone of deep-water reefs is thought to extend from the mid and outer shelf south of Mississippi and Alabama to at least the northwestern Florida shelf off Panama City, Florida (Figure 1). The reefs off Mississippi and Alabama are found in water depths of 60 to 120 m (Ludwick and Walton, 1957; Gardner et al., 2001, in press) and were the focus of a multibeam echosounder (MBES) mapping survey by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2000 (Gardner et al., 2000, Gardner et al., 2001, in press). If this deep-water-reef trend does exist along the northwestern Florida shelf, then it is critical to determine the accurate geomorphology and reef type that occur because of their importance as benthic habitats for fisheries. Georeferenced high-resolution mapping of bathymetry is a fundamental first step in the study of areas suspected to be critical habitats. Morphology is thought to be critical to defining the distribution of dominant demersal plankton/planktivores communities. Fish faunas of shallow hermatypic reefs have been well studied, but those of deep ahermatypic reefs have been relatively ignored. The ecology of deep-water ahermatypic reefs is fundamentally different from hermatypic reefs because autochthonous intracellular symbiotic zooxanthellae (the carbon source for hermatypic corals) do not form the base of the trophic web in ahermatypic reefs. Instead, exogenous plankton, transported to the reef by currents, serves as the primary carbon source. Thus, one of the principle uses of the morphology data will be to identify whether any reefs found are hermatypic or ahermatypic in origin.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Multibeam mapping of the West Florida Shelf, Gulf of Mexico