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Benthic Habitat Mapping of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

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CCMA's Biogeography Branch completed an investigation in 2004 to consistently and comprehensively map the distribution of coral reefs and other benthic habitats throughout the U.S. Pacific Territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The product includes the development of a web site and CD-ROM which provides access to digital geographic information system (GIS) data, maps, and satellite imagery depicting the location and distribution of shallow-water seafloor habitats the U.S. Pacific Territories. "The availability of the images, maps and data represents a major milestone towards the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force's recommendation to develop shallow-water coral reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. waters by 2007," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

Project Summary

The CD-ROM and website product, "The Shallow-Water Benthic Habitats of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands", is the fifth in a series of digital maps that characterize bottom 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 Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Efforts are also underway to update the benthic habitats of Florida and to explore mapping coral reef 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 accuracy and detail, and represent the first comprehensive assessment of benthic habitats of the shallow water environments (less than 99 feet water depth) for these Pacific Island Territories. 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 visual interpretation of satellite images. In all, CCMA delineated and mapped approx. 174 square miles of unconsolidated sediment, approx. 76 square miles of submerged vegetation, and approx. 51 square miles of coral reef and colonized hardbottom.

Live Coral characterized habitat map Macroalgae
Image Credits: Biogeography Branch


Current/Completed -

Reports and Publications


Digital Elevation Models

More data is available on the CD-ROM and at the following website



Relevant Links

Time Frame

Completed: 2004 - March 2005

For More Information

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