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Coastal Decision-making Tools

Navigating arctic ice.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are mapping tools used to integrate, store, edit, analyze, share, and display geographic information. NOS provides a variety of GIS data products to the coastal management community. Pictured above is the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer that uses local elevation data and visualization software to allow users to see how one to six feet of sea level rise might affect their coastal communities.


Is this area vulnerable to erosion and therefore not a safe place to build a road? What would be the most effective way to restore this coastal marsh back to its original state? How can we grow our community without hurting water quality?

Balancing the use of resources in coastal areas with their protection requires good tools and information to make good decisions. To help state and local coastal resource managers make the best decisions, NOS provides training, data and information, management strategies, and technology.


Going coastal

Live near the coast? You aren't alone. Over half of all Americans live in coastal states. And each year, more people flock to our nation's coast. With them comes more development—new homes, businesses, roads. These things enrich the economy, but they also place pressure on the environment, potentially diminishing the aesthetic and economic value of living in a coastal area. NOS works to deliver tools to help balance the health of our coasts with the health of our economy.


Science to tools

At NOS, we transform science into practical, innovative tools. For example, the Science Collaborative is a new program that puts science conducted at National Estuarine Research Reserves to work in coastal communities. Administered by the University of New Hampshire, the program supports Reserve-led projects that bring together scientists, decision makers, and educators to address coastal pollution and habitat degradation in the face of climate change.


Making it social

NOS addresses the “people” part of coastal management by developing and applying social science research, tools, data, and learning opportunities. A recent Social Coast Forum, the first conference focused on bringing together social science and coastal applications, attracted hundreds of participants. Many people also visit the Social Coast website to get coastal economic data and demographic data and learn about basic but important economic principles through our humorous economic video series. Lastly, we help people address any of 12 coastal management issues with the Coastal Planning Advisor. This online tool helps coastal professionals move through the decision-making process, and includes collaboration features to ensure team members are on the same page. 


Educating new leaders

The students of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. NOS invests in training these future leaders through programs such as the Coastal Management Fellowship Program. Under the Program, postgraduate students in the field of coastal resource management spend two years working for a state coastal management program. The students bring new expertise to the state efforts, and the fellows receive valuable work experience.


The written word

The sharing of ideas is fundamental to any innovation. Coastal Services, a bimonthly trade magazine for coastal managers, helps coastal programs learn from each other as they see how their peers address coastal management issues. Coastal Management News, an electronic publication, chronicles the accomplishments of the national coastal zone management programs.


A view from above

Remote sensing involves the use of satellites, aircraft, and other devices to gather information about land and water. NOS provides remote sensing data, including land cover, topography, and ocean-floor habitat data, to state coastal programs. NOS scientists also use remotely sensed data to develop other tools and services, such as coastal maps, disaster response, harmful algal bloom analysis, coastal ecosystem monitoring, and nautical charts.


Map it out

Geographic information systems (GIS) are mapping tools used to integrate, store, edit, analyze, share, and display geographic information. NOS provides a variety of GIS data products to the coastal management community, including digital shoreline data, hurricane information, and watershed mapping projects. Other GIS tools include Habitat Priority Planner, to identify and prioritize habitat areas for management action; Environmental Sensitivity Index maps, which help assess contamination risk; and data used to characterize coastal zone habitats.


Smart growth

Bounded by water, coastal communities must make use of limited land while protecting natural resources from the effects of population growth and development. NOS, in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, the International City/County Management Association, and Rhode Island Sea Grant, developed a guide and Web site to help officials make coastal “smart growth” decisions that balance use and enjoyment of coastal areas with conservation.

Get Social

More Information

Did you know?

The Digital Coast is a cost-effective resource for coastal communities. Through the Digital Coast, users can find the information they need to explore the implications of sea level rise, conduct risk and vulnerability assessments, develop community green infrastructure plans, and much more.


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