The East and West Flower Garden Banks, at the continental shelf edge 103 nautical miles southeast of Galveston, Texas, exist in clear, oceanic water with annual temperature variations from 18 to 32°C. Submerged tropical coral reefs dominated by Montastrea annularis and harboring
15 additional hermatypic coral species and 10 genera of red calcareous algae occupy the bank tops between 15 and 36 m. Deeper coral reefs composed of 12 hermatypic coral species and abundant coralline algae occur between 36 and 52 m. The banks are dominated overwhelmingly by crustose coralline
algae between 50 and 85 m. Eighty-five percent of the substratum on the shallowest reefs is hard, the rest is coarse carbonate sand or coral gravel. Live coral cover on the hard substratum exceeds 50%, with Montastrea annularis covering approximately 30%. Coral diversity is low
compared to Caribbean and Florida reefs, but very similar to that of Bermuda reefs. Accretionary and encrusting growth rates of corals at the Flower Gardens are similar to those of the same species in Florida and the Caribbean. The banks' northerly location has resulted in reduced coral
diversity, but not reduced abundances or growth rates of the species present.
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