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Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico

Edited by John W. Tunnell Jr., Ernesto A. Chávez and Kim Withers; Foreword by Sylvia Earle

Publication Year: 2007

Coral reefs declined worldwide during the 1980s and 1990s, making them perhaps the most endangered marine ecosystem on Earth. This realization spurred John W. Tunnell Jr. and others to write a comprehensive book that would raise awareness of coral reefs and their plight. Tunnell and coeditors Ernesto A. Chávez and Kim Withers present an integrated and broad-ranging synthesis, while Mexican and U.S. experts assess the current state of these fragile systems and offer a framework for their restoration. Beginning with a history of the research done in this region, Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico covers the geography, geology, oceanography, ecology, and biodiversity of the thirty-eight “emergent” or platform-type coral reefs in the southern Gulf. The editors include chapters on the biota—from algae to fish—followed by a look at environmental impacts, both natural (such as hurricanes and red tides) and human (such as ship groundings and dredging). The book closes with a discussion of conservation issues, which is both descriptive and prescriptive in its assessment of what has been done and what should be done to protect and manage these vital ecosystems.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

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pp. ix-xii

Shades of orange and gold streaked the darkening horizon as I climbed into the snug seat of the one-person submersible Deep Rover and prepared to realize a lifetime dream: to spend the night, sunset to sunrise, getting to know the undersea residents of a coral reef by becoming a temporary resident myself. With guidance from Dr. J. W. Tunnell, senior editor of this volume, a site was chosen ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Billy Causey introduced me to scientific diving at Seven and One-half Fathom Reef, offshore from Padre Island, Texas, and the coral reefs of Veracruz, Mexico, in the late 1960s. Billy and I went on to study the fish and mollusks, respectively, of Seven and One-half Fathom Reef for our master of science degrees at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M University–Kingsville) in Kingsville, ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

We have all benefited greatly from our mentors, colleagues, and students who went with us to the field, discussed many varying topics, and assisted us over the years to learn about and better understand the coral reefs of the southern Gulf of Mexico. They are too many to name here, but we gratefully acknowledge We attempted to have two reviewers per chapter, and we sincerely thank ...

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pp. 1-4

Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse, productive, and complex ecosystems on earth. They are economically important as sources of food and medicinal products and they protect fragile shorelines from storm damage and erosion. Coral reefs are a source of cultural value and great natural beauty, and they provide vast revenues in tourism dollars. However, since the late 1970s ...

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Chapter 1. Research History

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pp. 5-13

The first scientific account of coral reefs in the southern Gulf of Mexico was made by an expedition of scientists from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (now Philadelphia Academy of Sciences) in the early months of 1890. Expedition leader and academy director Professor Angelo Heilprin described the purpose of the expedition as “to investigate the natural history of ...

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Chapter 2. Reef Distribution

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pp. 14-22

There are 46 named coral reefs in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Of these, 31 are the Veracruz Shelf reefs (VSR) in the southwestern Gulf off the state of Veracruz, and 15 are the Campeche Bank reefs (CBR) in the southeastern Gulf (Table 2.1, Fig. 2.1). Other named and unnamed shoals and banks have yet to be explored; these likely have coral communities as well. Dahlgren (1993), for instance, ...

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Chapter 3. Origin and Geology

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pp. 23-33

Gulf of Mexico Basin The Gulf of Mexico is a roughly circular basin encompassing parts of the southeastern United States and eastern Mexico. It is some 1,500 km in diameter, up to 3,700 m deep, and has been filled with 10–15 km of Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediments (Salvador 1991a). Its boundaries are the Florida Escarpment and Platform to the east, the Campeche Escarpment ...

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Chapter 4. Climate and Oceanography

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pp. 34-40

The climate and oceanography of coral reef areas within the southern Gulf of Mexico (SGM) are the result of large-scale water circulation (i.e., the Loop Current and associated large anticyclonic gyre) and mesoscale features interacting within the slope and shelf (cyclonic or anticyclonic gyres, tropical cyclones, and other meteorological events called nortes). Local conditions (such as fresh- ...

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Chapter 5. Reef Zonation and Ecology: Veracruz Shelf and Campeche Bank

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pp. 41-67

For decades, the ecology and zonation of coral reefs have dominated ecological studies in tropical regions of the world. Along with the geologic history of an area, physical environmental parameters govern ecological and geographical distribution of reef organisms. Benthic habitats and communities are usually similar and typical in various geographic regions, but understanding the reef ...

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Chapter 6. Reef Biodiversity

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pp. 68-86

Coral reefs are known to harbor the highest biological diversity (biodiversity) of any habitat within the sea. Over 2,000 marine species and almost 300 terrestrial species have been reported from the southern Gulf of Mexico coral reefs and their islands, respectively (Table 6.1 and 6.2). Since a list of this size is beyond the scope of this book, we refer ...

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Chapter 7. Reef Algae

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pp. 87-94

Coral reef algal communities include the zooxanthellae, symbiotic algae in the gastrodermis of the hermatypic (reef-building) corals, free-living, encrusting coralline algae, phytoplankton, mat-forming and boring micro-filamentous algae, and calcified, fleshy, and turf macroalgae. Coral reefs should probably be called tropical reefs, biotic reefs, or even algal reefs. Corals cannot build a ...

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Chapter 8. Reef Corals

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pp. 95-101

Recent distribution of the shallow-water zooxanthellate Scleractinia extends to the greater Indo-Pacific (Pacific and Indian Oceans, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf) and the Atlantic, including the Gulf of Mexico. The greater Indo-Pacific is the most prominent and diverse biogeographic province; the Atlantic is far inferior to the greater Pacific in all aspects of species richness (Wells 1956, 1957; ...

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Chapter 9. Reef Fish

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pp. 102-111

Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. Nowhere on the reef is this diversity as conspicuously displayed as in the reef’s fish community. Between 66% and 89% of all marine fish species are found on coral reefs and reef-associated habitats (Moyle and Cech 1988). The tremendous diversity of reef-fish species is generally thought to be the result of a diversity ...

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Chapter 10. Reef Fisheries

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pp. 112-118

From the Laguna Madre de Tamaulipas, south through the Bay of Campeche to the reefs and on the outer continental shelf of the Yucat

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Chapter 11. Island Biota

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pp. 119-125

There are 25 islands associated with the 38 emergent reef platforms in the southern Gulf of Mexico (Table 11.1; see Figs. 2.2–2.9 for maps). The most conspicuous biota are island vegetation and birds, both seasonal migrants and nesting seabirds. Less conspicuous are the terrestrial or land crabs, insects, lizards, and nesting sea turtles. Most islands are low sandy cays, or they are mostly sand ...

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Chapter 12. Environmental Impacts

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pp. 126-141

The coral reefs in the southern Gulf of Mexico are subject to many natural and anthropogenic environmental stressors (Tunnell 1985, 1992; Ch

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Chapter 13. Conservation and Management

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pp. 142-152

Coral reef ecosystems in the southern Gulf of Mexico provide services (e.g., fishery support, storm protection) and revenue (e.g., fishing, tourism, oil exploration) in a variety of ways to adjacent coastal communities. Loss of these coral reef resources would have tremendous social impacts related to loss of work, income, and potentially, an important food source for many artisanal fishing communi-...

List of Acronyms

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pp. 153-154

Literature Cited

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pp. 155-178

List of Contributors

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pp. 179-180


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pp. 181-194

E-ISBN-13: 9781603442770
E-ISBN-10: 1603442774
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585446179
Print-ISBN-10: 1585446173

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 171 color photos. 35 tables. 51 b&w figs.
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Series, Sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi