NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources, in direct support of NOS priorities, offices, and customers, and to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.
NCCOS data and analyses are informing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) offshore wind energy siting decisions. NCCOS is working jointly with BOEM along the nation’s coasts to provide geophysical assessments of the seafloor, study the marine life found there, and create models that predict the broader spatial and temporal distribution and abundance of fish, birds, corals, and marine mammals. NCCOS’s social value surveys measure coastal community support for or against offshore wind energy development, enabling BOEM to anticipate concerns and engage stakeholders more meaningfully. These products are helping advance the president’s clean energy goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, while minimizing the wind industry’s impacts on protected species, habitats, and commercial and recreational fishing.
The Florida harmful algal bloom respiratory forecast — launched by NCCOS and partners in 2018 for Pinellas County, Florida — now includes more than 20 Gulf Coast beaches, with efforts underway to expand the forecast to Florida Panhandle and Texas beaches. The forecast helps beachgoers, especially those with respiratory conditions, know the daily severity of airborne red tide toxins at area beaches. In Ohio, the Army Corps of Engineers is using NCCOS technology to control cyanobacteria and their toxins in the Maumee River, which flows into Lake Erie. Along the Maine and Rhode Island coasts, partners deployed NCCOS sensors that detect the algal toxin domoic acid and alert managers to levels that can contaminate shellfish and threaten public health.
Coastal communities are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and coastal erosion. NCCOS researchers assessed vulnerability to climate change and coastal hazards in Los Angeles County, California — the most populous county in the nation. The team integrated social, structural, and natural resource vulnerability components with coastal flooding, stormwater flooding, erosion, drought, heat, and wildfire risk to identify vulnerable geographic areas in the county. Local planners and decision-makers are using the information to protect their communities, and to plan for and manage climate and coastal impacts.
In support of an Executive Order to establish Aquaculture Opportunity Areas (AOAs), NCCOS developed marine spatial data atlases to help NOAA identify locations for sustainable commercial aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico and Southern California Bight. AOAs are areas that show high potential for a variety of aquaculture, while minimizing interactions with other ocean enterprises, such as shipping, fishing, and military activity. Developing sustainable aquaculture will strengthen our coastal economies and increase our nation’s food security. With over 200 data layers and novel modeling approaches, the atlases, which were released in November 2021, provide the most comprehensive spatial analyses ever developed for any U.S. ocean space to locate the most suitable areas for aquaculture in both regions.
Stony coral tissue loss disease is infecting and killing roughly half of the Florida reef tract’s hard coral species, including pillar coral — a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. NCCOS scientists have successfully treated and rehabilitated diseased pillar coral rescued from the region. The saved pillar coral fragments now await a time when they can be used to restore the species to the wild. The work supports NOAA’s larger Mission: Iconic Reefs project, which calls for restoring nearly three million square feet of the Florida reef tract over the next 20 years. NCCOS and partners are also developing lab-based, coral propagation methods to cultivate field samples of mesophotic (mid-depth) corals injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Ultimately, when transplanted back to the Gulf of Mexico, the cultivated corals will speed up recovery times of areas affected by the spill.