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NCCOS Project

Biogeographic Assessment of the Samoan Archipelago

This project began in August 2009 and was completed in August 2011

We examined the marine biogeography of the Samoan archipelago in the south central Pacific Ocean, with a focus on regional ocean climate, island connectivity via ocean currents, distributions of reef fish and coral communities, and the extent of existing marine protected areas (MPA). Managers, scientists, and conservation planners will use this information to prioritize placement of MPAs and encourage international cooperation.

Why We Care
The diverse coral reefs around American Samoa are part of the only U.S. territory in the south central Pacific Ocean. To make responsible management decisions, officials and scientists must have a complete understanding of the status and location of these large, critically important habitats and ecosystems, including insight concerning their interdependence on reefs and the adjacent island nations.

What We Are Doing
Our objective was to develop a biogeographic assessment of the reef ecosystems and ocean areas surrounding the Samoan archipelago. A key goal in this assessment was to compile data from both Samoa and American Samoa and to conduct the characterization across the entire archipelago. The study built on earlier assessments by re-analyzing and interpreting many original datasets, adding more recent biogeographic data sources, and combining earlier findings into a multidisciplinary summary of marine biogeography.

What We Found
Our key findings addressed and/or revealed the:

  • Oceanography of the Samoan archipelago
  • Ocean currents and larval transport among islands and shallow seamounts of the Samoan archipelago and adjacent island nations.
  • Biogeographic assessment of fish and coral communities of the Samoan archipelago.
  • Existing network of MPAs in American Samoa.
  • Mapped benthic habitats from the shoreline to the shelf edge of Tutuila

Additional Resources

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