An ecological monitoring project was initiated in 1989 on two nearshore hard-bottom communities in the middle Florida Keys to document changes in community structure on nearshore benthic communities. The purpose of this monitoring project was three-fold: 1) to characterize nearshore
hard-bottom communities in terms of dominant benthic flora and fauna; 2) to examine the biological variability between two initially similar communities; and 3) to assess the rate of change in benthic community structure over time. Survey methodologies were used to both characterize and monitor
changes in the spatial patterning of benthos, and included substratum and lifeform characterization, species presence/absence inventories, and density and area coverage of benthic algae and invertebrates. Nearshore hard-bottom communities were characterized by low relief, low coral cover (<1%),
a visual dominance of octocorals, and a seasonal change in algal abundance. Changes observed on nearshore communities included an increase in algal coverage and a mass mortality of milleporid hydrocorals associated with hyperthermal conditions in nearshore waters during the summer of 1991.
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