Alternate Title

Reef Community Stability on the Flower Garden Banks, Northwest Gulf of Mexico


Benthic cover and coral growth studies conducted on the coral reefs at the Flower Garden Banks since the early 1970s, as well as investigations on other aspects of biotic assemblages associated with the reefs, suggest fairly high community stability. Changes that have been observed indicate the community's resilience in response to periodic episodes of stress, which are caused primarily by natural factors (e.g., anomalously high temperatures, disease epidemics). There has been no indication of long-term environmental degradation following such events. On the whole, the reef communities appear to have remained unaltered by human activities, despite numerous isolated insults to the reefs, caused mostly by anchoring, lost or discarded debris, illegal fishing gear, and tow cables. Early recognition of the sensitivity of the reef communities on the banks led to implementation of protective measures related to hydrocarbon development by the Minerals Management Service. Regulations promulgated later by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration addressed threats posed by other potentially destructive activities. Long-term research and monitoring programs have been instrumental in, and remain vital to, enabling resource managers to make science-based decisions concerning environmental protection at the Flower Gardens.