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This benthic mapping activity was conducted to inventory the reef ecosystem and associated bottom types for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (hereafter PRVI). Prior to this project, a comprehensive inventory of the shallow water ecosystems in these areas did not exist. Such an inventory is required for successful management. To meet this need, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Biogeography Branch, in consultation with many local and federal partners conducted a GIS based mapping effort in the region. This represents the first US coral reef area to be mapped under the purview of the US Coral Reef Task Force.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean
Service acquired aerial photographs for the nearshore waters of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands in 1999. These images were used to create maps of the region's coral reefs, seagrass beds,
mangrove forests, and other important marine habitats. Mapped areas encompass the insular shelf
between the shoreline and shelf edge except where turbidity prevented visualization of the bottom.
A primary product of this project is a benthic habitat altas however, a detailed methods manual
for creating the benthic maps, and text descriptions with associated photographic examples of each
bottom type mapped are also included.
Twenty-one distinct benthic habitat types within eight zones were mapped
directly into a geographic information system (GIS) using visual interpretation of orthorectified
aerial photographs. Benthic features were mapped that covered an area of 1600 km 2 in Puerto Rico
and 490 km 2 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico , 49 km 2 of unconsolidated sediment, 721
km 2 of submerged vegetation, 73 km 2 of mangroves, and 756 km 2 of coral reef and colonized
hardbottom were mapped. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, 24 km 2 of unconsolidated sediment, 161 km 2
of submerged vegetation, 2 km 2 of mangroves, and 300 km 2 of coral reef and hard bottom were
Reports and CD-ROM
- Kendall, M.S., M.E. Monaco, K.R. Buja, J.D. Christensen, C.R. Kruer, and M.
Finkbeiner, R.A. Warner. 2001.
Methods Used to Map the Benthic Habitats of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands U.S.
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). National Ocean Service (NOS), National
Centers for Coastal Ocean
Science (NOS) Biogeography Program, Silver Spring, MD. 46 pp.
- A CD-ROM with all project data, methods, and results (identical to products on
this project page);
to order, click here.
- A printable atlas of all map products is available on the CD-ROM and at the following
Completed: January 2000 - January 2002
For More Information
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910