Biology of the City of Washington
Time constrains of field surveys precluded the comprehensive collection of biological data. However, several specific areas were selected based on their representative properties of the biological predominance of the site, and based on their relationship to the major archaeological features. Fourteen individual monitoring stations consisting of the predominant hard and soft corals were established. The stations will serve as a baseline for future in-depth research and monitoring. One biological monitoring station is Mount #3, where several hard and soft corals and sponges have been identified. The subsequent growth of these colonies, and any new communities that attach to the substrate, can now be tracked.
For nearly eighty years, the City has provided the hard, artificial substrate for a developing artificial reef community. Millepora alcicornis, or Branching Fire Coral, comprised the predominant hard coral species documented. Soft corals included Gorgonia ventalina, or the Common Sea Fan. Many encrusting corals can be found directly attached to the engine mounts. A total of 39 hard coral species and 34 soft coral species were recorded.
These observations of extensive of coral colonization, as well as the shoals of a diversity of fish species found in and around the wreck, support the interpretation of the City of Washington as an artificial reef. Numerous invertebrate and fish species which were recorded during Indiana University field investigations.
Although observations to date are qualitative, each monitoring station can be revisited for detailed quantitative analysis which will build on current data. A complete inventory and analysis of fishes and invertebrates will need to be conducted as well to begin to understand the magnitude of the ecosystem of the City of Washington.
The City of Washington, after 40 years of service, certainly will contribute a perspective into history as part of the Shipwreck Trail. Add to this the study and monitoring of the complex ecology which has evolved on this 80-year-old substrate, and the City of Washington -- as any submerged resource could be-- will provide a means for exploring and understanding the site’s archaeological and biological significance.