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Providing a benthic habitat classification manual, a benthic habitat map for the nearshore waters of the main Hawaiian Islands, and supplemental geospatial data.

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, 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.

aerial photograph with data

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 have 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 Hawaiian partners, including Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources, a leading coral reef management agency. An initial step in producing benthic habitat maps is 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 the main Hawaiian Islands: Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau.

Twenty-seven distinct benthic habitat types within eleven zones were mapped directly into a geographic information system (GIS) using visual interpretation of orthorectified aerial photographs and hyperspectral imagery. Benthic features were mapped that covered an area of 790 km2. In all, 204 km2 of unconsolidated sediment, 171 km2 of submerged vegetation, and 415 km2 of coral reef and colonized hardbottom were mapped.

To supplement the maps, digital scans of the original aerial photographs, georeferenced mosaics, a GIS mapping tool for use with ArcView, and supporting data sets were also created. To see or download this information, visit NOAA's Biogeography Program.

This document will show data users how the data was collected and help them replicate the data for comparison purposes at a later date. Document contents include:

  • A description of each of the habitat classifications with example aerial and underwater photographs

  • 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 along with a comparison of map accuracy utilizing different source imagery

Citation for this document:
Coyne, M. S.1, T. A. Battista1, M. Anderson2, J. Waddell1, W. Smith3, P. Jokiel3, M. S. Kendall1, and M. E. Monaco1. 2003. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS CCMA 152 (On-line). Benthic Habitats of the Main Hawaiian Islands Benthic Habitats of the Main Hawaiian Islands. Also available on U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Biogeography Program. 2003. (CD-ROM). Benthic Habitats of the Main Hawaiian Islands. Silver Spring, MD: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  1. NOAA National Ocean Service, Biogeography Branch; N/SCI 1, SSMC4; 1305 East West Highway; Silver Spring, MD 20910
  2. Analytical Laboratories of Hawaii; 1320 Aalapapa Dr.; Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii 96734
  3. University of Hawaii at Manoa; Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology; P.O. Box 1346; Kaneohe, HI 96744

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