Announcement: NOAA releases new coral reef maps of NW Hawaiian Islands

Roger B Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at
Thu Mar 6 09:08:02 EST 2003

NOAA03-R407  Contact: Glenda Tyson    (301) 713-3066    March 5, 2003


 An atlas is now available from NOAA,  the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, providing baseline information about the
locations and distributions of the shallow-water seabed features of the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI).  The Atlas of the Shallow-Water
Benthic Habitats of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands - Draft supports
research, management, and conservation of critical resources in the NWHI
region.  NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

 Developed through a partnership between NOAA National Ocean Service
(NOAA Oceans and Coasts), NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, the
State of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, the
University of Hawaii, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Analytical
Laboratories of Hawaii, the atlas depicts shallow-water seabed features
in the NWHI with unprecedented detail.  The maps also provide baseline
information when assessments are performed to evaluate whether or not
changes, such as increases or decreases in reef cover, impacts of marine
debris, and the effects of global warming, are taking place in the area.

 The atlas is considered to be in draft form because confirming the
accuracy of the maps is extremely difficult.  As more information about
the coral reef ecosystems in the NWHI is collected, the maps will be
revised and updated.

 In the atlas, shallow-water refers to water generally less than 30 m
(98 ft) deep. Approximately 2,360 sq. km (911 sq. miles) of coral reef
ecosystems were mapped, representing about 68 percent of the estimated
3,493 sq. km (1,349 sq. miles) of shallow-water coral reef ecosystems in
the NWHI.  An even bigger area of coral reef ecosystems may be found in
water greater that 30 m (98 ft) deep.  Other mapping activities and
technologies will be used in coming years to characterize the seabed
associated with these deeper water areas in the NWHI.

 In addition to the printed atlas, a set of two CD-ROMs is available.
These CD-ROMs contain the digital, high-resolution, detailed benthic
habitat maps; aggregated habitat cover maps; and detailed estimated
depth maps.  These maps can be incorporated into a computerized GIS or
other software for further use and analysis.  The CD-ROMs also contain
documentation on how the maps were generated, and other information
related to mapping the benthic habitats of the NWHI.

 The atlas was produced in response to a mandate from the U.S. Coral
Reef Task Force to develop shallow-water coral reef ecosystem maps for
all U.S. waters by 2007. The primary funding source for the development
of this product was the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program.  The
products generated from this and other coral reef mapping efforts are
used to support NOAA, other federal, state, territory, and local
activities, including NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Programs’
endeavor to designate NWHI as a National Marine Sanctuary and research
for the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program.

 The effort to map U.S. coral reef ecosystems is led by the Biogeography
Program in NOAA Oceans and Coasts National Centers for Coastal Ocean
Science. The Biogeography Program develops information through research,
monitoring, and assessment on the distribution and ecology of living
marine resources and their associated habitats for improved ecosystem

 The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are a series of islands,
atolls, shallow water banks, and seamounts that start with Nihoa Island,
which is 250 km (155 miles) west-northwest of Kauai, and stretch 1,920
km (1,193 miles) west-northwest to Kure Atoll.  The NWHI make up the
western portion of the Hawaiian Archipelago, which
includes the islands of Hawai`i and O`ahu.  The diverse, expansive and
pristine shallow-water coral reef ecosystems of the NWHI are unique.
This ecosystem hosts a distinctive array of marine mammals, fish, sea
turtles, birds, and invertebrates, including species that are endemic,
rare, threatened, and endangered.

 NOAA National Ocean Service (NOAA Oceans and Coasts) is dedicated to
exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts
and oceans. NOAA Ocean and Coasts balances environmental protection with
economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe
navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats,
and mitigating coastal hazards.

 The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and
national safety through the prediction and research of weather and
climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our
nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Internet:

NOAA Oceans and Coasts -
NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program -
Draft Atlas of the Shallow-Water Benthic Habitats of the Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands -
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force -
Mapping Implementation Plan -


  Roger B. Griffis <roger.b.griffis at>
  Policy Advisor
  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  U.S. Department of Commerce

  Roger B. Griffis
  Policy Advisor                                <roger.b.griffis at>
  National Oceanic and Atmospheric
  U.S. Department of Commerce
  NOAA/NOS/ORR Rm 10116 1305 East West Highway  Pager: 877-632-5370
  Silver Spring                                 Fax: 301-713-4389
  MD                                            Work: 301-713-2989 x 115
  Additional Information:
  Last Name     Griffis
  First Name    Roger
  Version       2.1

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