Assessment, Monitoring and Mapping of Coral Reefs in Veracruz, Mexico

Grant Winners

  • Brian Walker, PhD – Oceanographic Center
  • David S. Gilliam, PhD – Oceanographic Center
  • Elizabeth Larson, MS – Oceanographic Center
  • Mauricio Lopez Padierna, BS – Oceanographic Center

Dean

  • Richard Dodge, PhD – Oceanographic Center

Abstract

Award Winners

The Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano (Veracruz Coral Reef System National Park) consists of 23 reefs surrounding the Port of Veracruz, Mexico, and encompasses a total of 52,000 hectares. Since 2007 we have visited Veracruz yearly performing coral surveys throughout the marine park. This research has yielded yearly reports, a student publication, and a 2009 EPA awarded Gulf Guardian Award. The purpose of the project has evolved from a descriptive characterization of coral reef assemblages to more focused studies on assessing coral distributions at local and regional scales, monitoring the health of coral assemblages, and studying the dynamics of dense Acropora coral areas as an extension to ongoing research in Florida. The project objectives are to 1) continue NSUOC/NCRI biological assessments and monitoring of the Park's coral reefs and 2) to map a currently understudied, unique high density area of a threatened coral species (Acropora cervicornis) and assess its health and condition. This study will continue to build the Park's assessment and monitoring database. We will collect stony coral cover, species richness, size, and health as well as data on other important functional groups including turf algae, macroalgae, and coralline algae. For the Acropora project, at least one Acropora cervicornis high-density patch will be mapped and assessed for extent and condition. Methods will be similar to those being used by the authors in Florida to allow for statistical comparison between regions. Data collection will be accomplished using, in situ continuous temperature monitoring and non-destructive visual surveys of corals on reefs within the Park. Results will increase knowledge of the distribution of corals within the Park and determine the state of an unique area of a threatened coral species (A. cervicornis). This information is critical for evaluating resource management strategies as well as the extent of anthropogenic and natural impacts.