Habitats and Living Resources
Habitats and Living Resources
The ocean and coastal areas of the Mid-Atlantic region are home to an abundance of natural resources, major cities and high concentration of populations, and some of the country’s most ecologically valuable and sensitive ecosystems, including complex wetland and estuarine habitats. The region is also home to several key ports, a large and economically important fishing industry, and possesses a large energy resource. The proximity of these important industries to sensitive habitats and species located in the region make it important to understand interactions between these various activities and processes and identify the most prevalent threats to marine species and ecosystems.
The Mid-Atlantic region is home to a large variety of habitats and ecosystems that are critical not only to the healthy ecological functioning of the region’s ocean and coastal areas, but also support many important economic, social, and cultural activities. Some of the region’s ecologically important habitats include:
- Tidal Marshes
- Submarine Canyons
- Cold-Water Corals
The region also acts as an important migratory corridor for the numerous species of waterfowl and marine mammals, which is critical to the life cycles of these animals.
The Mid-Atlantic possess a number of important living resources. Large amounts of both commercial and recreational fishing occur in the Mid-Atlantic, and many coastal towns in the region are almost wholly dependent on the fishing industry. The region is also home to numerous types of endangered species, including various species of marine mammals and sea turtles.
Habitat Protection and Resource Management
There are various approaches to habitat protection and resource management being undertaken in the region. The Mid-Atlantic is home to 39 of the nation’s 225 marine protected areas (MPAs), including national seashores, estuarine research reserves, and wildlife refuges. MPAs in the Mid-Atlantic have a number of different purposes, ranging from fish stock protection to tidal marsh protection. Marine spatial planning (MSP), which is defined as “...a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that have been specified through a political process” (UNESCO 2010), is being increasing looked to as a viable means to reduce environmental impacts and user conflicts. Various wetland restoration efforts are being conducted, including through the Chesapeake Bay Program. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC), which is responsible for the management of the fisheries in federal waters off the coast of the Mid-Atlantic, serves as a planning group and prepares fishery management plans for the implementation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MAFMC 2010). Various types of coastal development approaches, such as low-impact development and special area management plans (SAMPs) are being increasingly utilized to reduce adverse impacts on coastal ecosystems.
Modeling, Mapping, and Observation
There are a number of important regional efforts aimed at supporting the information base for habitat protection and living resource management in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (MACOORA) is a partnership of marine and estuarine data providers and users from state and federal agencies, private industry, non-governmental institutions and academia from nine states. The Multipurpose Marine Cadastre (MMC), a multi-agency effort led by NOAA and the Minerals Management Service, is an integrated, online marine information system for viewing and accessing authoritative legal, physical, ecological, and cultural information in a common GIS framework. The Nature Conservancy is currently working with MARCO partners develop a GIS Portal and to assess what data layers are currently available on both a regional and state scale and to decide how layers should be displayed and what functionalities are needed for this regional portal.
UNESCO. 2010. “Marine Spatial Planning”. Accessed November 18, 2010. Available at: http://www.unesco-ioc-marinesp.be/marine_spatial_planning_msp
Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. 2010. “About MAFMC”. Accessed November 18, 2010. Available at: http://www.mafmc.org/about/about.htm