A Long-Term Interdisciplinary Study of the Florida Keys Seascape
Abstract:The SEAKEYS (Sustained Ecological Research Related to Management of the Florida Keys Seascape) program is a research framework which encompasses the large geographic scale and long time scale of natural marine processes and ecosystem variation upon which human impact is superimposed. The need for interdisciplinary long-term research in coastal ecosystems is critical as we anticipate extraordinary resource management obligations and scientific opportunities in the next decade. The core of the program is six instrumented, satellite-linked monitoring stations which span the 220 mile-long coral reef tract and Florida Bay and which, since 1991, have documented the potential impact of summer heating, winter cold fronts, storms, and distant floods. Meso-scale physical oceanographic studies have documented the net flow of water from Florida Bay to Hawk Channel which provides a potential mechanism to link water quality in Florida Bay with the waters of Sanctuary. Water column and sediment nutrient studies have shown elevated nutrient levels in nearshore waters decreasing sharply to low levels near the offshore coral reef tract. There is a potential link of nearshore and offshore via a seaward deflection in the near-bottom flow. Regional nutrient dynamics are complicated by periodic upwelling driven by the Florida Current. A series of long-term photomosaic stations have tracked coral community dynamics for more than 5 years and have indicated a loss of over 40% in coral cover at some sites. This loss may be linked to declining water quality in Florida Bay. As a large marine ecosystem, the new Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and adjoining parks and reserves must be studied and managed holistically if human use of the region is to be sustained.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: May 1, 1994
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