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NCCOS Helps Define Best Practices for Modeling Distributions of Deep-sea Corals

Published on: 03/25/2019
Primary Contact(s): arliss.winship@noaa.gov
Predictive habitat modeling for an example deep sea coral species along the U.S. West Coast. From left to right, locations of observed coral occurrences, predicted distribution of relative habitat suitability, and uncertainty associated with model predictions.

Predictive habitat modeling for an example deep-sea coral species along the U.S. West Coast. From left to right, locations of observed coral occurrences, predicted distribution of relative habitat suitability, and uncertainty associated with model predictions. Credit: NCCOS.

Last month, NCCOS researchers co-led a two-day workshop in Seattle, Washington, on best practices for deep-sea coral distribution modeling. Predictive habitat modeling provides natural resource managers with a cost-effective way of identifying potential deep-sea coral habitat over large areas.

Workshop attendees reviewed previous modeling work and identified the strengths and limitations of alternative approaches. Attendees then discussed future directions and best practices for modeling, with a focus on data collection and processing, model validation, and management applications.

Workshop participants are drafting a manuscript of their conclusions for submission to a scientific journal. The findings will help guide and inform investments in future deep-sea coral modeling projects and the design of future data collection aimed at improving and validating models. The conclusions are also relevant for modeling the distributions of other deep-sea benthic organisms.

The workshop was funded by NOAA’s Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program’s West Coast Initiative and was hosted and co-led by NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Launched in 2018, the four-year West Coast Initiative is striving to collect the information that is most urgently needed by agencies that manage deep-sea coral ecosystems, particularly the Pacific Fishery Management Council and five California and Washington National Marine Sanctuaries.

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