Mapping and Information Working Group


Current, accurate, and consistent maps greatly enhance efforts to preserve and manage coral reef ecosystems. With comprehensive maps and habitat assessments, coral reef managers can be more effective in designing and implementing a variety of conservation measures, including:

  • Long-term monitoring programs with accurate baselines from which to track changes;
  • Place-based conservation measures such as marine protected areas (MPAs); and
  • Targeted research to better understand the oceanographic and ecological processes affecting coral reef ecosystem health.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) has committed to produce comprehensive digital maps of all U.S. shallow-water (less than 30 meters) coral reef habitats, and to characterize priority moderate-depth (30-200 meters) reef systems. Coral reef mapping efforts are coordinated through the USCRTF Mapping and Information Synthesis Working Group, composed of representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), other Federal and State agencies, and academic and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The working group defines mapping as the process of identifying and delineating sea-floor features in georeferenced, remotely sensed imagery and assessing the thematic accuracy of the resulting map. An accurate georeferenced map is critical when characterizing the health of benthic (e.g., coral) communities, and monitoring to detect and measure changes over time. It is important to recognize that "mapping" may include many activities, including delineating shoreline, surveying to obtain high-resolution bathymetry, defining habitat classification systems, and producing digital habitat maps.