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Benthic Habitat Mapping of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands


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Objectives

Produce detailed, georeferenced, digital maps of the shallow-water coral ecosystem habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Project Summary

The Remote Sensing Team of NOAA's Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment (CCMA) and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve (NWHI CRER) of NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) produced comprehensive, detailed maps of 2,360 sq km of the shallow-water benthic habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). The products include a web site and CD-ROM that provides access to digital geographic information system (GIS) data, maps, and satellite imagery depicting the location and distribution of shallow-water coral ecosystem habitats the NWHI.

This mapping effort is the second in a series of digital maps that characterize coral ecosystem habitats. The maps have been produced by CCMA and its partners for U.S. jurisdictions, including Florida; Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the main eight Hawaiian Islands and the U.S. Territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas. Efforts are now underway to update the coral ecosystem habitat maps of Florida and to explore mapping coral ecosystems in the U.S. Freely Associated States, including the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The recently completed maps are characterized by unprecedented detail, and represent the first comprehensive assessment of benthic habitats of the shallow water environments (less than 99 feet water depth) in the NWHI. Thirty-four distinct benthic habitat types (e.g., patch reef, unconsolidated sediment, etc.) within eleven unique ecological zones (e.g., lagoon, reef crest, etc.) were mapped directly into a GIS using a combination of semi-automated computerized and visual interpretation of satellite images.

Detailed, GIS-based maps are needed of the coral ecosystem habitats of the NWHI to support research, management, and conservation of critical resources found in the region. The diverse, expansive and pristine shallow-water coral ecosystems of the NWHI are unmatched anywhere else on Earth. This ecosystem hosts a distinctive array of marine mammals, fish, sea turtles, birds, and invertebrates, including species that are endemic, rare, threatened, and endangered. Federally protected species include the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the threatened green sea turtle.

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Time Frame

Completed: March 2003

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