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NCCOS Research Project

Spatial Characterization to Support Development of an Integrated Management Plan for Puerto Rico’s Northeast Marine Corridor

This project began in January 2013 and was completed in October 2016

We synthesized data to support development of an integrated management plan for Puerto Rico’s Northeast Marine Corridor. We used spatial data to characterize the area, identify priority biological and ecological elements, and highlight possible threats from human activities. We built an online map-based tool, Digital Atlas, to make maps and related products available in support of ecosystem management including risk assessment, conservation prioritization, and integrated marine spatial planning.

Why We Care
The Northeast Marine Corridor is a large, land-sea management area with an existing reserve network and many rare and threatened wildlife, making it unique in the region for both its size and the integrated “summit to sea” geographical scope and a high management priority for the people of Puerto Rico and federal agencies. The marine areas are used for a wide range of activities, such as commercial and recreational boating, diving, fishing, and tourism, making this area a culturally and economically important resource, with great value to biodiversity and a wealth of ecosystem services. A comprehensive and detailed spatial database is central to modern marine management and is required to support effective decision making in the management of spatially complex, multi-use, marine protected areas. This project used best-available information, including local expert knowledge, to identify and characterize areas of special biological concern to help managers add appropriate levels of protection and mitigation activities to the management plan.

What We Did
Local stakeholders, resource managers, and research scientists held workshops to:
• identify management concerns, priorities, and short- and long-term goals for implementing the reserve;
• compile existing ecological information on the distribution of marine habitats and living resources; and
• identify data gaps in relevant ecological and social science information needed for successful implementation
and management of the reserve.

Using the results from scoping meetings, partners worked together to design and execute the four components of the project:

  1. Management Steering Committee (MSC): to establish a shared vision and management approach among management stakeholders.
  2. Social Science Component: to map human use patterns and public outreach in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.
  3. Hydrodynamic Component: The University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez developed oceanographic models to help understand the hydrodynamic connectivity across the region.
  4. Comprehensive Spatial Decision Support Tool: We developed a comprehensive geospatial data to populate a geodatabase to support spatial planning, survey design, and risk assessment. The database is made available via an online Digital Atlas, and includes spatial layers on oceanography, bathymetry, land-use change, human use and potential impacts, bathymetry, as well as data collected by other project components.

The management plan will benefit from having the most up-to-date ecosystem data with which to inform decisions that help to balance human uses with sustainability of ecosystem services and maintenance and enhancement of protected species and habitats.

Our primary partner was the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER); other partners include The Nature Conservancy and the University of Puerto Rico.

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