Much of the data was at least 87 years old.
Protecting coral reefs is one of NOAA’s highest priorities, and making science-based management decisions for that protection requires accurate and up-to-date hydrographic information. NOAA recently surveyed U.S. Virgin Island areas that had not been surveyed since 1924, and acquired current data that will be used to manage some of region’s most important marine protected areas.
NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which provides the nation’s navigational products, managed the recent hydrographic survey to measure ocean depths for updating navigational charts. Shoreline information, water depths, tide measurements, and sonar images of cultural and natural features will be compiled to help update NOAA’s suite of nautical charts.
The data goes beyond contributing to navigational charting, however, as NOAA data management strategies are increasingly geared to multi-use projects. Working with scientists from a variety of disciplines, NOAA’s hydrographic surveys will feed into hydrodynamic models that can forecast dispersal of oil spills, chemical contaminants, and sediment.
LiDAR collects data in areas too shallow for boats
Coast Survey managed the multi-use data acquisition project, using bathymetric Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) -- acquired by aircraft -- to augment its traditional vessel-borne hydrographic data collection methods. Ancillary data derived from the laser return used in depth determination may help to outline the physical characteristics of the seafloor (sand, rock, coral, etc.) and allow for the production of additional mapping products.
The U.S. Virgin Island Jurisdictional Working Group identified the need for conducting bathymetric mapping of near-shore environments, including shallow bays where bathymetric LiDAR is often the most efficient method of data acquisition.
As one of the recipients of a recently awarded three-year NOAA LiDAR contract, Fugro LADS, Inc. completed the project in late February of this year.
Project covers critical areas in the Virgin Islands
The project covers the waters around the island of Saint John and the northern half of Saint Thomas, from the shoreline to water depths up to 100 feet. The surveys focused on areas with exceptional data needs: Fish Bay and Coral Bay, St John; East End Reserve, St. Thomas; Cas Cay-Mangrove Lagoon Marine Reserve, St. James Marine Reserve, and Virgin Islands National Park Hassel Island Marine Protected Areas.
May 4, 2011