Determining Coral Reef Impacts Associated with Boat Anchoring and User Activity
   Donald Behringer, University of Florida

Abstract: Coral reefs around the world are under assault from enumerable threats and Florida reefs are no exception. Among those threats are those that arise from boating activities including anchor damage, fishing gear damage, and recreational impacts (fishing and diving). In fact, based on an analysis of Coast Guard boating statistics over the past decade, Florida has the highest number of registered boats and the sixth highest statewide rate of growth in boater registrations in the U.S. This magnitude of boating and related activities has lead to intense pressure on already strained reef resources. The Florida Wildlife Legacy Strategy and the Florida State Wildlife Grant Program recognize the importance of coral reefs by listing them as a “priority habitat” and designating their overall habitat threat category as “very high” (highest threat). Several of the sources of coral reef habitat stress identified in the Strategy are associated with boating or boating-related activities, and one of the four “highest ranking actions identified for abating the source of this stress” in the Strategy is “development of a vessel anchoring management plan and use of mooring buoys”. The objectives for this project our to determine if coral reef use intensity by boat operators correlates with impact levels measured on the reef., to determine if impact level and type can be predicted from user activity type and to also determine if the frequency of coral reef injuries or extent of damage exceeds recovery rates. We will select reefs that are subject to low or high vessel and activity use, and those that are primarily subject to fishing (recreational) activities and those that are primarily used for diving and snorkeling activities. At each site we will perform a species inventory. In addition to sessile animal and vegetative coverage analysis, the sites will be evaluated for user impacts including damaged organisms, dislodged organisms, and debris (e.g., monofilament, trash, etc.). All sites will be surveyed each year between May and September (July - September in 2008-2009). During each site survey we will mark all sessile organisms within the transects that show signs of injury. Dislodged sessile organisms (e.g., hard corals, gorgonians, and sponges) will be marked and measured, but otherwise left undisturbed. Each marked individual will then be photographed. Upon each successive survey any new injuries will be treated in this way and previous injuries will be re-photographed and re-measured. To determine if injury frequency or extent exceeds recovery we will compare the number of injuries and injury area through time for each vessel and activity use treatment.

Award Matching Funds Total
$105,623.00 $105,623.00 $211,246.00

Year Funded Starting Date Ending Date
2008 7/1/2008 6/30/2011

Location: Broward and Palm Beach Counties