2022 journal article

Spatiotemporal Variation in Coral Assemblages and Reef Habitat Complexity among Shallow Fore-Reef Sites in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary


author keywords: structure-from-motion; underwater photogrammetry; coral reef; habitat complexity; coral morphology; reef monitoring; Hurricane Irma
UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
13. Climate Action (Web of Science)
14. Life Below Water (Web of Science; OpenAlex)
15. Life on Land (Web of Science)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: April 18, 2022

With the unprecedented degradation and loss of coral reefs at multiple scales, the underlying changes in abiotic and biotic features relevant to the three-dimensional architecture of coral reefs are critical to conservation and restoration. This study characterized the spatiotemporal variation of habitat metrics at eight fore-reef sites representing three management zones in the Florida Keys, USA using visual habitat surveys (2017–2018) acquired before and after Hurricane Irma. Post-hurricane, five of those sites were surveyed using structure-from-motion photogrammetry to further investigate coral morphology on structural complexity. Multivariate results for visual surveys identified moderate separation among sites, with fished sites characterized by complex physical features such as depth and vertical hard relief while protected sites generally harbored high abundances of live coral cover. Three-dimensional models of mapped sites showed within site variation as another driver in site separation. Additionally, fine-scale orthoimage analyses identified significant differences in dominant coral morphologies at each mapped site. This study suggests protected reef sites generally harbor higher live coral cover despite some fished sites being structurally similar in seabed topography. Our work provides fine-scale spatial data on several managed sites within a marine sanctuary and highlights the contribution of diverse coral assemblages to the coral reef framework.