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Benthic Habitats of the Main Hawaiian Islands – Interim Product

Author(s): Coyne, M. S., T. A. Battista, M. Anderson, J. Waddell, W. Smith, P. Jokiel, M. S. Kendall and M. E. Monaco


Center Team: Biogeography

Name of Publisher: NOAA

Place of Publication: Silver Spring, MD

Publication Type: NOAA Technical Memoranda

Date of Publication: 2003

Reference Information: Main Hawaiian Islands

Abstract: Introduction The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) initiated a coral reef research program in 1999 to map, assess, inventory, and monitor U.S. coral reef ecosystems (Monaco et al. 2001). These activities were implemented in response to requirements outlined in the Mapping Implementation Plan developed by the Mapping and Information Synthesis Working Group (MISWG) of the Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) (MISWG 1999). As part of the MISWG of the CRTF, NOS’ Biogeography Team has been charged with the development and implementation of a plan to produce comprehensive digital coral-reef ecosystem maps for all U.S. States, Territories, and Commonwealths within five to seven years. Joint activities between Federal agencies are particularly important to map, research, monitor, manage, and restore coral reef ecosystems. In response to the Executive Order 13089, NOS is conducting research to digitally map biotic resources and coordinate a long-term monitoring program that can detect and predict change in U.S. coral reefs, and their associated habitats and biological communities. Most U.S. coral reef resources have not been digitally mapped at a scale or resolution sufficient for assessment, monitoring, and/or research to support resource management. Thus, a large portion of NOS’ coral reef research activities have focused on mapping of U.S. coral reef ecosystems. The map products will provide the fundamental spatial organizing framework to implement and integrate research programs and provide the capability to effectively communicate information and results to coral reef ecosystem managers. Although the NOS coral program is relatively young, it has had tremendous success in advancing towards the goal to protect, conserve, and enhance the health of U.S. coral reef ecosystems. One objective of the program was to create benthic habitat maps to support coral reef research to enable development of products that support management needs and questions. An initial step in producing benthic habitat maps is the development of a habitat classification scheme. The purpose of this document is to outline the benthic habitat classification scheme and protocols used to map the main Hawaiian Islands: Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau. Twenty-seven distinct benthic habitat types within eleven zones were mapped directly into a geographic information system (GIS) using visual interpretation of orthorectified aerial photographs and hyperspectral imagery. Benthic features were mapped that covered an area of 790 km2. In all, 204 km2 of unconsolidated sediment, 171 km2 of submerged vegetation, and 415 km2 of coral reef and colonized hardbottom were mapped. To supplement the maps, digital scans of the original aerial photographs, georeferenced mosaics, a GIS mapping tool for use with ArcView, and supporting data sets were also created. To see or download this information, visit

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