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Developing a Resource Assessment Tool for Marine Protected Areas: California

This project began in May 2009 and was completed in June 2011

We worked with NOAA’s National Marine Protected Area Center (MPA Center) to develop new approaches to characterize natural resources (e.g., deep sea corals, fish diversity, submarine canyons) in marine-protected areas off California. It resulted in the development of the Spatial Analysis and Resource Characterization (SPARC) GIS Tool to guide marine-protected-area planners and the broader national coastal and marine spatial planning initiative.

Why We Care
Our nation’s valuable coastal and ocean water resources are under increasingly competitive usage/activity demands. In 2010, the Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) initiative was launched to encourage optimized use of our coastal oceans. Our project supported the CMSP initiative, and project results were developed to help resource personnel improve management and conservation measures of our ocean resources.

What We Did
Our project began in 2009 with an initial focus on identifying gaps in knowledge that could better support the national system of MPAs. Our objectives were modified at the time the CMSP initiative was developing. To avoid duplicating work, the MPA Center designed a process to identify ecological information gap analysis needs within the broader framework of the CMSP.

Along with our partners, we identified a fast, simple GIS approach to distill important spatial information in terms of marine resources. The approach resulted in the development of our SPARC GIS Tool. It was built to:

  1. Assimilate spatial data, including marine resource data and newly compiled management and resource information from the MPA inventory
  2. Provide a comprehensive analysis of resources protected within and outside MPA (or other) boundaries.

The tool allows users to determine the amount of resources inside and outside MPA boundaries as well as to compare, for instance, the difference in the amount of nursery habitats inside federal versus state MPAs. Its focus is regional-based identification of ecologically important areas and resource characterization.

Next Steps
The MPA SPARC proof of concept is being evaluated using numerous marine resources off the California coast. It will focus on gathering existing ecological spatial information, building out the MPA Center inventory to include ecological and management information, and building an analytical tool that will bring this information together with the resources in the inventory. It is expected that the tool will then be broadened for use nationwide.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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