GIS and Coral Reef Management and Conservation on the American Samoa

From another student in Intro GIS.

The independent state of Samoa, located in the South Pacific Ocean, possesses an incredible rich coral reef system. However, the reef is in poor shape because of environmental catastrophes and anthrogenic effects. The reef was damaged not only by the two large hurricanes (Ofa and Val) in the early 1990s, but also by a subsequent infestation of starfish and by coral bleaching. Human impacts–there’s a large footprint in terms of mining, construction, agriculture and sewerage–are also harming the coral reef.

Research to improve the health of the ecosystem are crucial. One big problem of Samoa is its remote location that makes data collection difficult. Researchers at the Oregon State University are currently working on the creation of benthic maps, web-based information System and education modules on GIS for the population of Samoa.

In a presentation, Dr. Dawn Wright, from the Oregon State, explains the use of geospatial technologies on Samoa and their usefulness for reef coral conservation and management. The first important technology is a multibeam investigation to figure out the bathymetry of the coral reef communities. The second technology is GIS, which would permit, as said before, the mapping of resources to improve management and decision-making.

Many reasons promote further research in mapping technologies on Samoa. Researchers like Dr. Wright want not only to identify the geological characteristics of the ocean floor, but also to identify the organisms that live in the Samoan coral reefs environment. Also, an algae bloom was identified in 1996, implying a nutrient boost in the coral reef environment that needs to be identified and monitored. Moreover, it is important to identify which sites are of high importance to prioritize their conservation.

Paving the way for further discussions, Dr. Wright explains that GIS is important because it permits the study of the structure, the change and the function of the coral reefs. This allows for real-time management because of the ability to follow the physical modifications on a regular basis. She also explains that other scientists in other regions were able to analyze coral reef ecology using GIS.

The US Center for Coastal Management and Assessment is tasked with advancing research on coastal and marine ecosystems. (The CCMA is part of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS)). Its biogeography branch is tasked with gathering information about living marine habitats, including reefs. The CCMA Biogeography Branch decided in 2004 to map the coral reef and other benthic habitats’ distributions in American Samoa. The project includes a CD-ROM with maps, satellite imagery and GIS technologies. The most recent completed work is impressively precise and detailed. It includes 34 benthic zones with 51 square miles of ocean floor maps.

One Response to “GIS and Coral Reef Management and Conservation on the American Samoa”

  1. Michael says:

    Great to see the cool stuff you are doing. The Tally Lake video gives me a new rseepct for that lake. I wonder what types of fish live in there. Especially at the deeper levels. Yikes, it leaves a lot to the imagination. I miss you and V. Hope you are both well! Lets not discuss the weather…..Heidi