The NERRS Habitat Mapping and Change (HMC) component of the System-wide Monitoring Plan focuses on tracking and evaluating changes over time in coastal and estuarine habitats. The goal is to understand the relationships between land use and habitat changes, anthropogenic (“man-made”) influences from the watershed, and environmental stressors related to climate change.
By using state of the art technology to monitor changes in land use and habitat type over time, it is possible to track and evaluate short-term variability and long-term changes in NERRS habitats, and to understand how these changes are impacted by land use in nearby watersheds and by changes in local sea level. Working with experts from within the reserves and among state and federal partners, the members of the stewardship and research sectors helped to develop the rationale and documentation (Kutcher, 2008) for a NERRS habitat and land cover classification scheme with associated guidelines for implementation (Walker and Garfield, 2005). Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for NERRS HMC detail the methodology for developing and submitting boundary shapefiles and habitat maps to the Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO).
Land use and habitat changes in reserves and their watersheds are measured by acquiring elevation data at watershed and reserve-appropriate scales. This can be accomplished by measuring very small changes in land surface elevation (Smith and Gallagher, 2011) associated with System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) biological monitoring transects and other areas of interest within the reserve. To understand how changes in sea-level impact NERRS habitats, the land surface elevations measurements are then related to highly accurate measurements of local tides and water levels. Remote sensing from aircraft and satellites, in-situ monitoring, and the integration of standards and protocols used by other NOAA, federal, and state partners increases the opportunities for forming partnerships to support NERR mapping, monitoring and related research.
NERRS boundary maps and station locations may be downloaded as either GIS shape files:
or, Google Earth compatible .kml files: