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The area of potential shallow-water tropical and subtropical coral ecosystems in the United States

Abstract

Geographic information system-based analysis was used to derive comprehensive, consistent estimates of the potential area of broadly defined, shallow-water, tropical and subtropical coral ecosystems within the territorial sea and exclusive economic zone of the United States. A coral ecosystem is composed of habitats including unconsolidated sediment, mangrove, hermatypic coral, colonized hardbottom, and submerged vegetation, and major structural zones like reef crest, lagoon, and fore reef. This broad definition reflects the importance of both reef and non-reef habitats and structural zones in the function of these ecosystems. Nautical charts, published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of the Coast Survey, provide a consistent source of 10-fathom (∼18 m) and 100-fathom (∼183 m) depth curve information. The 10-fathom or 100-fathom depth curves are used as surrogates for the potential distribution and extent of shallow-water coral ecosystems in tropical and subtropical U.S. waters. An estimated 36,813 sq·km area has been identified where coral ecosystems can potentially be found in waters less than 10 fathoms (18 m) deep. In addition, an estimated 143,059 sq·km area has been identified where coral ecosystems potentially can be found in U.S. waters at depths down to 100 fathoms (183 m). Results also indicate that previous studies underestimated the extent of potential coral ecosystems for some locations in U.S. tropical and subtropical waters by as much as 100% and that the regional distribution of coral ecosystems has been incorrectly reported.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Paula Allen, Marlin Atkinson, Jim Bohnsack, Billy Causey, Athline Clark, Richard Dodge, Andrew David, Steve Dollar, Alan Friedlander, Virginia Garrison, Michael Hamnett, Kristine Holderied, Cindy Hunter, Walter Jaap, Paul Jokiel, Brian Keller, Matt Kendall, Henry Norris, Will Smith, Jenny Waddell, Jennifer Wheaton, and three anonymous reviewers for their review of earlier versions of this paper. This work was funded, in part, by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Fund.

Disclaimer: The use of trade names in this article does not constitute an endorsement of these products by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Correspondence to S. O. Rohmann.

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Communicated by Biological Editor K. Sullivan Sealey

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Table 3 The area from the shoreline to the 10-fathom or 100-fathom depth curve, the chart number, chart inset map identifier, and scale of each NOAA nautical chart used to digitize depth curves. For some locations, 10-fathom and 100-fathom depth curves were not available and other depth curves were digitized. Please refer to the footnotes for details. Area values are in square kilometer

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Rohmann, S.O., Hayes, J.J., Newhall, R.C. et al. The area of potential shallow-water tropical and subtropical coral ecosystems in the United States. Coral Reefs 24, 370–383 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-005-0014-4

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Keywords

  • Depth curves
  • Nautical chart
  • Coral reef distribution
  • Coral reef management
  • Coral ecosystem management