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Providing a benthic habitat classification manual, a benthic habitat map for the nearshore waters of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and supplemental geospatial data.

Overview

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) initiated a coral reef research program in 1999 to map, assess, inventory, and monitor U.S. coral reef ecosystems (Monaco et al. 2001). These activities were implemented in response to requirements outlined in the Mapping Implementation Plan developed by the Mapping and Information Synthesis Working Group (MISWG) of the Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) (MISWG 1999). As part of the MISWG of the CRTF, NOS' Biogeography Branch has been charged with the development and implementation of a plan to produce comprehensive digital coral-reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. States, Territories, and Commonwealths within five to seven years. Joint activities between Federal agencies are particularly important to map, research, monitor, manage, and restore coral reef ecosystems. In response to the Executive Order 13089 and the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000, NOS is conducting research to digitally map biotic resources and coordinate a long-term monitoring program that can detect and predict change in U.S. coral reefs, and their associated habitats and biological communities.

Most U.S. coral reef resources have not been digitally mapped at a scale or resolution sufficient for assessment, monitoring, and/or research to support resource management. Thus, a large portion of NOS' coral reef research activities has focused on mapping of U.S. coral reef ecosystems. The map products will provide the fundamental spatial organizing framework to implement and integrate research programs and provide the capability to effectively communicate information and results to coral reef ecosystem managers. Although the NOS coral program is relatively young, it has had tremendous success in advancing towards the goal to protect, conserve, and enhance the health of U.S. coral reef ecosystems. One objective of the program was to create benthic habitat maps to support coral reef research to enable development of products that support management needs and questions. Therefore this product was developed in collaboration with many U.S. Pacific Territory partners. An initial step in producing benthic habitat maps was the development of a habitat classification scheme. The purpose of this document is to outline the benthic habitat classification scheme and protocols used to map American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., four major and 14 detailed geomorphological structure classes; eight major and 18 detailed biological cover types) within eleven zones were mapped directly into a geographic information system (GIS) using visual interpretation of orthorectified IKONOS satellite imagery. Benthic features were mapped that covered an area of 263 km2. In all, 281 km2 of unconsolidated sediment, 122 km2 of submerged vegetation, and 82.3 km2 of coral reef and colonized hardbottom were mapped.

This CD-ROM will provide the user a suite of information including access to the primary and derived data sets, detailed information on how the mapping was conducted and data was collected, custom tools used to create the product, and reports summarizing the results:

    • Access to primary data sources (i.e., IKONOS imagery, accuracy assessment field data, ground validation field data, spatial accuracy field data)
    • Access to derived data sources (i.e., benthic habitat GIS files, final reports, shoreline GIS files)
    • Directions for using the "habitat digitizer" extension in ArcView
    • A description of the specific methods used to create the habitat maps

    • An assessment of the thematic accuracy of the maps

To see or download more information about NOAA's Coral Reef Mapping Program, visit NOAA's Biogeography Program

Citation for this document:
NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). 2005. Shallow-Water Benthic Habitats of American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CD-ROM). NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 8, Biogeography Branch. Silver Spring, MD.

The primary funding source for the development of this product was the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.