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National Inventory of Deep Coral Distribution and Development of GIS

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The highest priority of NOAA's Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP) is to locate, map, and characterize deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems (DSCE) within the U.S Exclusive Economic Zone. Major project objectives include:

  • Collecting and integrating all available information on the location of deep-sea coral ecosystems.
  • Developing and implementing approaches and tools to enable the analysis of human activities which could potentially affect DSCE, and to locate potential interactions between human activities and DSCE.
  • Participating in the development and implementation of both a data management plan for the DSCRTP and the Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP).
  • Producing maps, conducting spatial analysis and predictive modeling to support the objectives of the DSCRTP.
  • Maintaining coordination and consistency for GIS and data management matters associated with field activities in the Southeast Atlantic and West Coast regions, and across the national program.
bathymetry for Bajo de Cico bubblegum - deep sea coral deep sea Picasso sponge
Images: 1) bathymetry for Bajo de Cico; 2) bubblegum - deep sea coral; 3) deep sea Picasso sponge. All images are from NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program.

Project Summary

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service’s Office of Habitat Conservation and National Ocean Service’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment-Biogeography Branch (BB), in support of the Deep-Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP) and under the direction of the Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), will develop and support a geographic information and data management system to support inventory, mapping and characterization of deep coral reefs (depth > 30m). NOAA has a mandate under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 2006 to establish the DSCRTP. The mandate of the DSCRTP is:

  1. to identify existing research on, and known locations of, deep sea corals and submit such information to the appropriate Councils
  2. to locate and map locations of deep sea corals and submit such information to the Councils
  3. to monitor activity in locations where deep sea corals are known or likely to occur, based on best scientific information available, including through underwater or remote sensing technologies and submit such information to the appropriate Councils
  4. to conduct research, including cooperative research with fishing industry participants, on deep sea corals and related species, and on survey methods
  5. to develop technologies or methods designed to assist fishing industry participants in reducing interactions between fishing gear and deep sea corals
  6. to prioritize program activities in areas where deep sea corals are known to occur, and in areas where scientific modeling or other methods predict deep sea corals are likely to be present

GIS and data management support will be critical to meeting the mandates of the DSCRTP.  There is a clear need for GIS technical expertise, data management, and coordination between internal and external partners for both spatial and non-spatial information resources in order to meet the program’s objectives.  Additionally, there is a need to develop an approach to predictive modeling of potential DSCE distributions, which will support the continued identification and characterization of deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems.  This project will address the need to maintain consistency and compatibility between data management efforts for deep-sea coral ecosystems and shallow-water coral reef ecosystems.  It will address the need for GIS and data management coordination with field activities on the Southeast and West coasts.  Project tasks will include the collection of records on the locations of DSCE, the analysis of DSCE locations with respect to fisheries interactions, and the development of cartographic products to support the second report to Congress from the DSCP and to inform the Fisheries Management Councils.

The Biogeography Branch (BB) office will assist as a temporary repository for data resources during the development of a formal data management framework and processes for both the DSCRTP and the CRCP.  The Biogeography Branch has expertise in multi-beam data acquisition and processing.  BB staff are involved in the acquisition of bathymetric data in support of field activities in the Southeast Atlantic region. BB staff currently manage NOAA-acquired mapping data, and help coordinate mapping conducted through outside contracts for the South Atlantic. BB staff will “mine” for existing information on the locations of DSCE and will use this information to develop both maps and analysis for reporting to Congress and informing the Fisheries Management Councils.  The construction and maintenance of a DSCE GIS will be major component of data management through which the various components of the program will be tracked. 




  • A national inventory and geospatial database of known locations of Deep-Sea Coral Ecosystems (DSCE)
  • An analysis of the potential interactions of human activities and DSCE
  • A strategic plan for data management for the DSCRTP
  • Initiation of a predictive modeling approach and project to identify potential locations for DSCE
  • Maps and spatial analysis supporting the production of the second biennial report to Congress


Relevant Links

Time Frame

Spring 2009  –  September 2011

For More Information

Project Manager:
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x171

1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 x112