Ecosystem Boundaries

SAB3.jpgThe South Atlantic Council has jurisdiction over the Exclusive Economic Zone extending from the North Carolina/Virginia border through the Florida Keys. The area of the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Hatteras, NC, and the Florida Keys is considered to be a Large Marine Ecosystem (LME). Large Marine Ecosystems are regions of ocean space from river basins and estuaries to the seaward margins of continental shelves and the outer boundaries of the major current systems. They exhibit distinct bathymetry, hydrography, productivity and trophically dependent populations. Hence the Council's area of jurisdiction essentially comprises a single ecosystem.



Managers must be able to geographically delineate the systems under their authority , and have a scientific understanding of the structure, function, and processes that occur within their respective ecosystems, and between their systems and others.

Ecosystem Report to Congress, 1999.

The Council is addressing information needs to delineate the extent of the South Atlantic ecosystem through two activities:

1. Habitat Mapping

In partnership with the National Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the Council is mapping deepwater coral and benthic habitats in the South Atlantic region. Initial multi-beam sonar mapping efforts will focus on the South Atlantic outer continental shelf and upper continental slope off the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and the East coast of Florida covering a depth range of 100-500 m, and be accomplished with the use of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. Field testing and the first surveys will begin in 2005.

2. Development of South Atlantic Internet Map Server and Habitat/Ecosystem website.

In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Council has developed a Comprehensive Habitat and Ecosystem website (this site) supporting the development of the Fishery Ecosystem Plan. The site hosts an Internet Map Server comprising downloadable spatial data, associated metadata, imagery and videography. The Internet Map Server application is intended to serve as a repository and dissemination tool of spatial information on corals and bottom habitats and associated ecosystem information for the South Atlantic region.