NCCOS and NPS Map Underwater Habitats in St. John, USVI to Improve Park Management
Scientists from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, in partnership with the U.S. National Park Service, recently created benthic habitat maps for the Virgin Islands National Park and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The maps will help local managers develop place-based strategies to address and remedy specific threats to coral reefs inside the park and the monument.
The mosaic of habitats, including hard and soft corals, is home to a diversity of marine organisms that provide important ecosystem services to the community of St. John, including fishing, tourism, and shoreline protection. Coral reef ecosystems throughout the U.S. Caribbean are under increasing pressure from environmental and anthropogenic stressors. Mitigating these threats requires that resource managers first understand the spatial distribution of these resources, making benthic habitat mapping an integral component of ecosystem-based approaches to management.
To date, the team has mapped approximately 93 percent of the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and 92 percent of the Virgin Islands National Park.