Incidence of marine debris and its relationships with benthic features in Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Southeast USA

Laurie J Bauer, Matthew S Kendall, Christopher F G Jeffrey
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2008, 56 (3): 402-13
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) is an increasingly popular site for recreational fishing and diving in the South Atlantic Bight (SAB). As a result, there has been heightened concern about potential accumulation of marine debris and its consequent effects on sanctuary resources. Field surveys were conducted at GRNMS in 2004 and 2005 to provide a spatially comprehensive characterization of benthic communities and to quantify the distribution and abundance of marine debris in relation to bottom features. The spatial distribution of debris was concentrated in the center of the sanctuary and was most frequently associated with ledges rather than other bottom types. On ledges, the presence and abundance of debris was significantly related to observed boating activity and physiographic features including ledge height, ledge area, and percent cover of benthic organisms. The results from this study will aid managers in optimizing cleanup efforts and long-term monitoring of debris accumulation patterns at GRNMS and other hard bottom areas in the SAB.

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