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West Flower Garden Bank
The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) is located in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico, approximately 192 km southeast of Galveston, Texas. The West Flower Garden is 12 km west of the East Flower Garden. It is a much larger bank that covers about 77 square km. It is home to a wide array of marine life, including numerous species of rays and sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals. Over 170 species of fish and approximately 300 species of reef invertebrates inhabit the banks. These include at least 27 species of sponges, 20 species of polychaetes, 62 species of molluscs and 36 species of echinoderms. Other marine life residents at the banks include turtles, manta rays and sharks.
Location on Continental Shelf: Outer-Shelf Bank
Coordinates: 27.83° N 93.83° W
Nearest Largest City: Galveston, Texas, USA
Area of Coverage: 77 km2
Width: 8.1 km
Length: 10.9 km
Minimum Depth: 20 m
Maximum Depth: 150 m
Minimum Temperature: 20oC
Maximum Temperature: 30oC
Minimum Salinity: 31 ppt
Maximum Salinity: 36 ppt
Structurally, the Flower Garden Banks coral reefs are composed of large, closely-spaced heads up to three or more meters in diameter and height. Coral cover averages 47% and is frequently cavernous. Other prominent benthic components include coralline algae covered rocks, leafy and filamentous algae and sponges, with sand at the bottom. Dominant coral species are the boulder star coral (Montastrea annularis), symmetric brain coral (Diploria strigosa), mustard hill (Porites astreoides) coral and the great star coral (Montastrea cavernosa). Algal populations have historically been low, but blue-green algae are becoming abundant and invading open space on coral heads. In spite of their northern location, the abundance and growth rates of hermatypic corals are similar to those on Caribbean reefs. The absence of shallow-water alcyonarians at the Flower Gardens, however, sets these reefs apart from all other Atlantic coral reef communities.
The structure of the West Flower Garden Bank is typical of a mature salt diaper in which crestal faulting has occurred. The West Flower Garden Bank is a much older salt dome than the East Flower Garden Bank. Numerous faults and crestal grabens run across the southeast end of the bank. Living reef lies in the North Central portion, and it rises from depths of 40 to 50 m to a crest at about 20 m. A terrace of about 60 to 70 m deep extends from near the base of the reef towards the northeast and south. The surface of this terrace is characterized by large waves of sediment that consist primarily of coral debris and gravels. Surrounding depths vary from 100 m to the north, to 150 m to the south. Total relief on the bank is approximately 130 m. Local relief and salt removal is greater than at the East Flower Garden.
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.2003. URL: http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/about/facts.html
Gardener, J.V., L.A. Mayer, J.E.H. Clarke and A. Kleiner.1998. High-Resolution Multibeam Bathymetry of East and West Flowe Gardens and Stetson Banks, Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico Science XVI No. 2:128.
NOAA. 2002. The State of Coral Reef Ecosystems of the United States and Pacific Freely Associated States. URL: http://www.nccos.noaa.gov/documents/status_coralreef.pdf
Rezak, R., T.J. Bright and D.W. McGrail. 1985. Reefs and Banks of the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico: Their geological, biological, and physical dynamics. Wiley, New York, NY, USA, 259 p.
National Marine Sanctuaries
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Gulf of Mexico Region - Environmental Information
GEMS - Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Keywords: Ray, Shark, Turtle, Coral, Reef, Bank, Salt dome
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