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What is marine biogeography?

Marine biogeography is the study of marine species, the geographic distribution of their habitats, and the relationships between living organisms and the environment.

Creating a habitat ecosystem map of the seafloor—a key component of marine biogeography—is a tricky process. Learn how it works in this two-minute video. Learn more.

By mapping benthic habitats, studying what occurs on the bottom of a body of water, and assessing the relationships between the environment and the organisms that live there, biogeographers provide useful information to protect and conserve marine resources.

Marine biogeographers often use Geographic Information Systems, or GIS, to aid in their research of marine animals, plants, and habitats. Scientists and GIS specialists develop map-based data that describe the distribution and ecology of living marine resources and their connections to human communities. State and federal planners can apply these tools and information to position aquaculture sites and alternative energy facilities, and to protect fisheries and coral spawning areas. Information from biogeographers allows planners to consider possible scenarios, such as new development, that may, or may not, impact the environment.

NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science conducts research on the distribution and ecology of marine plants and animals to predict future trends. Tools such as surveys, maps, and reports provide specific information to assess ecosystem conditions, anticipate changes in the environment, and evaluate how people's social and economic needs can be met.

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Vast and diverse coral reefs surround the U.S. territory of American Samoa, an archipelago located in the central Pacific. In 2011, NOAA completed a Biogeographic Assessment of the Samoan Archipelago, the first broad-scale effort to characterize the islands' marine ecosystems in a comprehensive manner.

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Last updated: 01/20/23
Author: NOAA
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