Habitat Protection, Conservation and Restoration
Coastal and marine habitats provide a variety of functions, from supporting the fish species that utilize them to providing economic and social benefits to many coastal communities. The ability to understand the complexity of the interrelated factors affecting habitat health is a critical component to effectively managing our fisheries resources.
Managers must evaluate numerous natural factors such as watershed hydrology, land cover, water chemistry, habitat connectivity, and species distributions, as well as anthropogenic factors such as coastal population growth, land based and offshore construction, and polluted land runoff. GIS is a powerful tool that helps managers visualize the spatial relationships of these factors at local, regional, or watershed scales.
GIS analyses may be used during permit consultations to assess potential direct or cumulative environmental impacts of proposed projects. GIS also facilitates the process of defining Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), Habitat Areas of Particular Concern (HAPCs), and Critical Habitat. GIS assists in identifying and prioritizing opportunities for habitat conservation. Restoration managers often use a variety of GIS techniques in restoration project design and implementation, integrating high-resolution field survey data with historical and current imagery or other local data sets where available.
In addition to spatial analyses, GIS applications such as interactive mapping or static map products are used as outreach tools to communicate habitat conservation activities to the public and other interested stakeholders.