Since 2000, the National Ocean Service and partners have mapped and identified nearly three million acres – equivalent to 1.2 million football fields – of U.S. shallow water (approximately 0- to 90-feet deep) coral reef habitats in the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Mapping is an essential first step in conserving coral reef ecosystems because they help to prioritize areas for further study and protection, as well as offer key information needed to evaluate changes in ecosystems over time.
The results of this body of work are summarized in a new report released by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), “National Summary of NOAA’s Shallow-water Benthic Habitat Mapping of U.S. Coral Reef Ecosystems.” This effort was led by a partnership between NCCOS, Coral Reef Conservation Program, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Coastal Services Center.
The scope of the report encompasses 10 areas of highly productive and diverse coral reef regions. Detailed information for each region has been previously published in reports on each island and/or jurisdiction. This document serves as a comprehensive summary of the previous studies and provides key information in a single report.
The sea floor habitat maps have greatly enhanced efforts to preserve and manage coral reef ecosystems around the nation. Managers, scientists and decision makers have already relied upon theses tools for accomplishing critical tasks, such as evaluating the benefits of marine protected areas and developing plans to minimize impacts from growing human communities that depend on the ecological services provided by coral reefs (e.g., food).
With the publication of the national summary report, NOAA aims to further facilitate application of coral ecosystem mapping data in order to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems for future generations.
To learn more about this and other NCCOS sea floor mapping efforts or to download a copy of the report, visit our Coral Reef and Seagrass Ecosystems page. To request a hard copy of the document, e-mail Alicia.Clarke@noaa.gov