Marine Benthic Habitat Characterization Surveys
HDR was contracted by the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic to conduct a benthic habitat characterization assessment to evaluate through field surveys the benthic habitat and federally protected marine biota that may occur in the nearshore waters around Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West. Such data could also be used during interagency consultations related to Federal actions at the NAS Key West and its operating areas.
Five separate areas, adding up to a total of 135 acres, were surveyed using preset transects for corals, seagrass, motile macroinvertebrates, and fish. Field surveys were conducted by trained and experienced marine biologists using Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Survey protocols generally followed guidance issued by conservation agencies that have jurisdiction in the area, including the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Field data was collected, analyzed and used to characterize the nearshore marine benthic community that is present in the waters around NAS Key West. Study data were also used to assess presence, density, and potential habitat use by federally listed threatened and endangered species in the nearshore waters of the installation, evaluate coral recruitment and indicators of coral stress and disease, and gauge seagrass cover and species composition with respect to potential utilization by key species such as the West Indian manatee and the dwarf seahorse.