North Atlantic Region

What is the Habitat Blueprint?

NOAA’s Stephanie Westby with oysters from the Harris Creek restoration effort.

NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint is a strategy to integrate habitat conservation throughout the agency, focus efforts in priority areas, and leverage internal and external collaborations to achieve measurable benefits within key habitats such as rivers, coral reefs, and wetlands. The first phase of this effort is to identify one or more NOAA-wide Habitat Focus Areas in the North Atlantic region, generally defined as the coastal states between Virginia and Maine. A Habitat Focus Area is a geographic site chosen for the important ecosystem benefits it provides and its potential for multiple NOAA offices and programs to contribute meaningfully to restoration efforts, while also leveraging the contributions of our partners to achieve greater success.

One of the central goals of this initiative is to select a Habitat Focus Area where NOAA can demonstrate measurable progress over the next three to five years with the potential for long-term impact. The process of selecting a Habitat Focus Area is intended to foster communication and cooperation across different NOAA fields of expertise, while simultaneously strengthening NOAA partnerships with other organizations and agencies active in North Atlantic habitat restoration.

 There are five proposed habitat conservation objectives that will be considered in choosing the Habitat Focus Area(s):
  • Sustainable and abundant fish populations.
  • Recovered threatened and endangered species.
  • Protected coastal and marine areas and habitats at risk.
  • Resilient coastal communities.
  • Increased coastal/marine tourism, access, and recreation.

Living Shoreline Project, Stillhouse Cove Marsh, Cranston, RI.

Habitat in the North Atlantic

The North Atlantic region extends from Virginia to Maine, encompasses the marine coastlines of 11 states, as well as Vermont and Pennsylvania, and is home to 70 million people.  The North Atlantic is home to salt marshes, rivers, seagrass beds, shellfish reefs, and our nation’s largest estuary—the Chesapeake Bay. These important natural resources face challenges from pollution, development, overfishing, invasive species, and barriers to fish passage. The loss of valuable wetlands threatens not only our nation’s sustainable fisheries and protected species, but our supply of clean water, and the stability of shorelines in the face of climate change. Continued loss of coastal wetlands means less protection from strong storms, such as Superstorm Sandy. While almost half of the U.S. population now lives in coastal counties, that number is considerably higher in the North Atlantic. One hundred eighty coastal counties (and the District of Columbia) constitute 40 percent of the total land area, and 58 million residents, more than 80 percent of the region’s population.

Habitat loss and degradation have  far-reaching impacts on the range of benefits that healthy coastal and aquatic habitats provide.  These benefits include ensuring the sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries, reducing the damage to coastal communities from storms and coastal flooding, and providing a variety of recreational and cultural opportunities to the public.

What sites are being considered as potential Habitat Focus Areas?

A team of NOAA experts have identified three candidate habitat focus areas based on the primary outcomes and goals of Habitat Blueprint as well as a set of criteria established by the North Atlantic Focus Area Selection Team. Our final candidate habitat focus areas for the North Atlantic are:

You can read more about the criteria used by the North Atlantic Focus Area Selection Team here.

Where can I find more information?

For more information on the national Habitat Blueprint initiative please visit the NOAA Habitat Blueprint webpage. For additional questions regarding implementing Habitat Blueprint in the North Atlantic, please contact Jenna Pirrotta at Jenna.Pirrotta@noaa.gov.

 

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