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Benthic Habitat Mapping off St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Reef National Monument


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Objectives

  1. Map the distribution of shallow-water and moderate-depth coral reef habitats around and south of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
  2. Provide place-based digital products to inform ecosystem-based marine resource management.
An Interactive Mapping Tool for St. John, USVI
St. John map
St. John’s Biogeography Integrated Online Mapper (BIOMapper). A display and search tool for a variety of St. John’s products including benthic habitat maps, data, aerial imagery, dive photography, underwater video and more.

Project Summary

Shallow-water (< 30 m) and moderate-depth (30 - 60 m) coral reef ecosystems in the surrounding waters of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands are unique natural resources that must be preserved. The mosaic of habitats, including hard and soft corals, are home to a diversity of marine organisms, which provide many important ecosystem services to the community of St. John, including fishing, tourism and shoreline protection. However, coral reef ecosystems throughout the U.S. Caribbean are under increasing pressure from environmental and anthropogenic stressors that threaten to destroy these valuable marine communities. Mitigating these threats requires that resource managers first understand the spatial distribution of these resources, making benthic habitat mapping an integral component to ecosystem-based approaches to management.

Through the implementation of a multi-year Interagency Agreement, NOAA’s Biogeography Branch mapped 53.4 km2 of shallow-water habitats around St. John and 90.2 km2 of moderate-depth habitats south of St. John for the Department of Interior (DOI), National Park Service (NPS), Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M). Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., 3 major and 16 detailed geomorphological structure classes; 6 major and 3 detailed biological cover types; 4 live coral cover classes) within 12 zones were digitally mapped using a combination of heads-up visual interpretation of aerial imagery and semi-automated classification of acoustic imagery. Combined, this effort mapped approximately 93% of the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (VICRNM) and 92% of the Virgin Islands National Park (VINP).

This work is an expansion of ongoing mapping and monitoring efforts conducted by NOAA and NPS in the U.S. Caribbean. The standardized protocols used in this effort will enable scientists and managers to quantitatively compare coral reef ecosystems around St. John to those throughout the U.S. Territories. These protocols and products will also help support the effective management and conservation of marine resources within the National Park system. Summary results and products for this project are linked below and in the table of contents on the left. The GIS products originating from this effort include: (1) accuracy assessment data, (2) ground validation data, (3) habitat maps, (4) source imagery and (5) associated metadata. Reports describing the classification scheme, thematic accuracy, and methods used to create the maps are also available online.

Products

Current/Completed -

Publications

Data

Tools/Maps

Video

Project Team & Acknowledgements

Partners

  • National Park Service, Ocean and Coastal Resources Branch
  • U.S. Geological Survey, Caribbean Field Station

Relevant Links

Time Frame

Completed: September 2008 - September 2009

For More Information

Project Manager:
1305 East West Highway
SSMC-IV, N/SCI-1
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-713-3028 ext 171


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