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Fieldwork

Most Detailed Map to Date of the Pinnacles Area—A Deep-Reef Fish Habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico


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  shaded relief bathymetry of part of the Pinnacles area
Pinnacles Bathymetry: Shaded-relief bathymetry of part of the Pinnacles area, a deep-reef complex in the northern Gulf of Mexico about 100 km south of Alabama. View is looking northeast. Foreground pinnacle is 10 m high. Distance across bottom of image is 1,200 m. Vertical exaggeration 5X. Contour interval 20 m.
[large version: 109KB]
In May and June, a team of USGS marine geologists used a high-resolution multibeam system to make the most detailed map yet of the Pinnacles area in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The deep-reef complex lies about 100 km off the coast of Alabama and serves as an important habitat for sport and food fish on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). It may also serve as a source region to replenish fish populations on the inner shelf, where fishing pressure has depleted stocks. The high-resolution multibeam mapping is part of a USGS joint Interactive Science project entitled "Mapping Submarine Topography and Currents, Physical Factors Controlling Spatial Differentiation of Pinnacles Reef Fish Communities, Mississippi-Alabama Outer Continental Shelf." Co-chiefs Ken Sulak (Florida Caribbean Marine Science Center) and Jim Gardner and Chris Sherwood (CMGP-Menlo Park) are heading the project.

The mapping data collected this spring will help scientists understand how the physical structure of the reefs controls and interacts with the biological composition of reef communities, information that can be used to protect the deep reefs and their fish populations. Work will continue in 2001 with a second mission to map bottom currents impinging upon Pinnacles reefs. The dominant current patterns will be superimposed upon the high-resolution bottom maps from the current mission. The project should provide the first insights into how topography and current processes determine community structure and ecology of deep reefs on the OCS. Its results will be useful to agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Minerals Management Service, which has been monitoring the deep reefs since the early 1990s to ensure that oil-industry activities are not harming them.


Related Web Sites
Northern Gulf of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf Seafloor Mapping Project
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Florida Caribbean Science Center (FCSC)
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Recovery of Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley

Crater Lake Mapping

Lake Erie Nearshore Habitat

Channel Islands

Pinnacles Area—Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Maine

Outreach Seafloor Mapping Seminar

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Blacks in Government

SF Bay Oil-Spill Hazards

Gas Hydrates

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