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Shallow-Water Benthic Habitats of the Republic of Palau

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The objective of this project was to map the distribution of coral reefs and other benthic habitats from Ngeruangel to Angaur in the Republic of Palau.

Project Summary

Location of Palau Islands
Location of Palau Islands

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 I mplementation 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 developing and implementing a plan to produce comprehensive digital, shallow-water coral-reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. States, Territories, Commonwealths and jurisdictional partners. 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.

Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., 4 major and 14 detailed geomorphological structure classes; 8 major and 3 detailed biological cover types) within 13 zones were digitally mapped in GIS using heads-up visual interpretation of orthorectified IKONOS satellite imagery. Summary results of the mapping effort by habitat mapping class are linked here. Products from this mapping effort are available online (see Product links below) or by ordering a DVD.  Both digital resources provide the user with a suite of information, including:

  • 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 ArcGIS
  • A description of the specific methods used to create the habitat maps
  • An assessment of the thematic accuracy of the maps

Completion of this project represents a major milestone towards completion of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force's recommendation to develop shallow-water coral reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. waters. Click this link for Summary Habitat Classification Results for Geomorphological Structure, Biological Cover and Benthic Habitat Zone

To see or download more information on the coral reef projects of NOAA's Biogeography Branch, click here.

Islands of Palau Example of shallow-water coral reef habitats off the Republic of Palau Submerged aquatic vegetation off Palau Coral and submerged aquatic vegetation off Palau
Photo credits: Biogeography Branch


Technical Memorandum (as a DVD): Battista, T.A., Costa, B.M., and S.M. Anderson, S.M. 2007. Shallow-Water Benthic Habitats of the Republic of Palau. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 59, Biogeography Branch. Silver Spring, MD.

Order a DVD of the product information here.

Link to Products Page

Methods: Developing the Habitat Classification Scheme


  • Imagery mosaics
  • Shoreline GIS files
  • Habitat GIS files
  • Ground validation GIS files
  • Accuracy assessment GIS files


Image of an island and coastal benthic habitat showing: 1) the aerial? photo (2007?) on the lower left and 2) the benthic habitat classification of that photo on the upper right.
Image of an island and coastal benthic habitat showing an aerial photo on the left side and a benthic habitat classification of that photo on the right.


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


Relevant Links

Atlantic/Caribbean: Pacific

Time Frame

Completed: 2004 - 2007

For More Information

Program Manager:
1305 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 ext 171