Benthic habitat maps help protect fragile underwater areas

Fishermen in a marine protected area

This illustration shows different benthic habitats: (left to right) oyster bed, seagrass meadow, amphipod tube mat, sandflat.

The term benthic refers to anything associated with or occurring on the bottom of a body of water. The animals and plants that live on or in the bottom are known as the benthos.

In ocean waters, nearshore and estuary areas are most frequently mapped. This is partly because the areas are shallow enough to map, but also because these areas are very important to preserve and manage.

Benthic habitat maps are derived from aerial imagery, underwater photos, acoustic surveys, and data gathered from sediment samples. The resulting digital map is viewed using geographic information system tools.

Policy makers, scientists, and researchers use benthic maps to make informed decisions that help protect the nation’s fragile shallow-water coastal areas.

Diving Deeper

Learn about mapping coral habitats on the sea floor and why these maps are important in this audio interview with an expert from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science Biogeography Branch. (21:28 minutes)

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For more information:

Benthic Habitat Mapping, NOAA Coastal Services Center (CSC)

Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment Biogeography Branch