Gems of the Gulf

 
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region  of the Gulf of Mexico.
A black sponge laying amongst coral in the McGrail Bank region of the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: NURC/UNCW and NOAA/FGBNMS.

This articles is excerpted from Gulf Currents, GRN's quarterly newsletter. To read the rest of the Summer 2014 edition of Gulf Currents, click here.


Beneath the Gulf’s sparkling waters, there lays a largely unseen world made up of hundreds of spectacular, unique ecosystems that are hotbeds of biodiversity. Recently a report by the Marine Conservation Institute, entitled “Gulf Gems: Treasured Places in Troubled Waters,” highlighted ten of the most spectacular of these ecological gems. The featured ecosystems include: 

  • Pulley Ridge, the deepest known photosynthetic coral reef off the continental U.S.—found 200 feet below the ocean surface — which is vibrantly colored and inhabited by more than 60 species of fish; 
  • Madison Swanson, Steamboat Lumps and The Edges off the Gulf coast of Florida, consisting of limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops that support arrow and hermit crabs, basket stars, sea fans and Oculina coral;
  • Viosca Knolls, a conglomeration of deep sea coral communities due south of Mobile and 1,640 feet beneath the ocean’s surface that support a range of diversity generally only seen in shallow water coral reef ecosystems; and 
  • South Texas Banks (Southern Bank, Hospital Bank and Mysterious Bank to name a few of the 40 banks discovered so far), “drowned” coral reefs that thrived when sea levels where much lower, but continue to house a wide array of marine life.

Sadly, each of these gems is at risk. However, as discussed in “Gulf Gems,” there are ways to protect them if we act soon. Read the full report here

Cyn Sarthou is GRN's Executive Director.

 

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