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Benthic Habitat Data



New Underwater Map of Shallow Coastal Waters

Click on this image to see what the experts see when studying this image of Redfish Bay, Texas, near Corpus Christi.

A new map of shallow-water seabed habitats along the Texas Coastal Bend is now available.

The new product from NOAA’s Coastal Services Center (CSC) joins a growing list of mapped coastal regions providing critical data about the condition of underwater vegetation around the nation.

The health of submerged aquatic vegetation is an important environmental indicator of overall estuary health. Seagrasses in the bays and lagoons of the Texas Coastal Bend region, for instance, are vital to the success of small invertebrates and fish. These small creatures are a food source for commercial and recreational fish throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Underwater vegetation in shallow coastal waters also supports a wide diversity of marine creatures by providing spawning, nursery, refuge, and foraging grounds for many species. The Coastal Bend provides a ready example of this, serving as the winter home to over 75 percent of the nation’s redhead ducks. If not for the seagrass, the ducks would not have enough food to overwinter in this region.

Field sampling is essential to accurate mapping. Those who study the sea bottom use the term benthic to refer to anything associated with or occuring on the bottom of a body of water. The animals and plants that live on or in the bottom are known as the benthos.

Seagrasses also stabilize sediments, generate organic material needed by small invertebrates, and add oxygen to the surrounding water.

Maps produced by CSC 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 these maps to make informed decisions that help protect the nation’s fragile shallow-water coastal areas.

CSC worked closely with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas A&M University Center for Coastal Studies, and a team of private sector vendors to produce the new map in support of the state’s Seagrass Monitoring Program.