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Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Database: Construction, Documentation and Use

Project Status: This project began in September 2008 and was completed in February 2010

We reviewed published information on the status of Atlantic coastal fish habitats and recorded it in a spatial bibliographic database for the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership. The results included summaries of habitat condition indicators, threats, and conservation recommendations.

Why We Care
Commercial and recreational fishing in the Atlantic states are an annual multi-billion dollar industry (citation). However, many challenges such as overfishing, human population growth and pollution are threatening these industries. Restoring, conserving, and enhancing Atlantic fish habitats will help to protect and sustain fish populations and the economies dependent on it.  In order for conservation efforts to be effective, they must be guided by the best available science. 

We are assisting the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership conservation planning by summarizing existing published information and data sources on habitat indicators, threats, and conservation actions. Along with these summaries, resource managers and scientists can easily search publications specific to their conservation geographic area. Our Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Database works to reduce time and effort in finding and reading publications, thus enabling strategic habitat conservation.   

What We Did
We created a comprehensive database of information sources on Atlantic coastal habitat condition indicators, threats, and conservation actions with these three components:

  1. Representative web-enabled bibliographic and assessment database.
  2. Geographic Information System (GIS) spatial framework.
  3. Summary report with description of methods, analyses of habitat assessment information, and recommendations for further work.

The bibliography is a comprehensive, searchable database of over 500 selected documents and data sources on Atlantic coastal fish species and habitats. Key information captured for each entry includes basic bibliographic data, spatial footprint (e.g., waterbody or watershed), species and habitats documented, and electronic availability. Information on habitat condition indicators, threats, and conservation recommendations are extracted from each entry and recorded in a separate linked table. Spatial reference information is provided for all of the bibliographic and assessment entries by the spatial framework. The spatial framework is a functional digital map based on polygon layers of watersheds, estuarine and marine waterbodies derived from NOAA’s Coastal Assessment Framework, MMS/NOAA’s Multipurpose Marine Cadastre, and other sources.

Initial users of the database are staff working on the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership Strategic Conservation Plan. Information from this summary report and database were used in this report: Through a Fish’s Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010, and this work received a Scientific Achievement in Support of Fish Habitat Conservation Award.

Next Steps
The Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Database has proven useful for planning conservation projects by the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership. Future steps include:

  • Solicit and implement user feedback to improve content and function of the database and Web tools.
  • Assist ACFHP’s efforts to compile spatial and tabular data from the sources identified on estuarine, coastal, and diadromous fish habitat, fisheries, and hydrology.
  • Continuously update the bibliographic and assessment tables with new sources and corrected information.

Regions of Study: Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic Seaboard, Chesapeake Bay, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia

Primary Contacts: David Nelson, John Christensen

Research Theme: Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management 

Related NCCOS Center: CCMA

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