NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) uses benthic mapping data to develop information on the condition of coral reef ecosystems to help inform science-based management decisions. They have identified a need to conduct a mapping data prioritization in shallow, coral reef areas within 0–40 meters within all seven U.S. coral reef management jurisdictions (Figure 1). Results from this project will enable CRCP and partnering management agencies to identify priority locations for improved benthic mapping data.
Why We Care
Spatial information about the seafloor is critical for environmental decision-making by coastal management organizations. Coordination among local managers and researchers is needed to avoid duplicating efforts, raise awareness of available mapping data, and target new collections for the highest priority locations. The information provided by participants is an initial step that will help inform research and monitoring activities to address management needs and maximize opportunities to leverage and complement existing regional efforts.
What We Propose to Do
From FY21–23 NCCOS will build a digital inventory of relevant shallow water (up to 40 m) mapping datasets and conduct a data needs assessment for each of the CRCP jurisdictions: Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Florida, Guam, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. In FY21, mapping priorities were completed for shallow coral reef areas surrounding Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida.
In FY22, this effort will focus on waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands. Results from completed jurisdictions can be viewed and downloaded on the project’s online hub.
To identify priority areas within each jurisdiction, the researchers will use a spatial framework and participatory online tool to solicit input from select local participants (Figure 2). Using methods similar to prioritization efforts elsewhere in the U.S. (i.e., West CONUS Coast, U.S. Caribbean, and Southeast U.S.), the team will combine input to identify areas of high priority for collecting contemporary, high-quality mapping data. Ultimately, this will provide CRCP and local managers with a detailed framework for future mapping management needs to protect, conserve, and restore the nation’s coral reefs. The focus of this effort will support CRCP’s four main pillars of work established to:
- Increase resilience to climate change,
- Reduce land-based sources of pollution,
- Improve fisheries’ sustainability, and
- Restore viable coral populations.
Benefits of Our Work
CRCP has expressly identified the need to create a mapping data inventory and provide a needs-based framework for future mapping efforts within shallow coral reef areas. Results from this project will benefit local jurisdictional communities, resource agencies, and other participating organizations by: (1) identifying regions of overlapping data needs, (2) promoting coordination among participating organizations, and (3) enabling partners to leverage resources to fill their most pressing data needs and information gaps.