Southeast & Caribbean Region

What is the Habitat Blueprint?

Aerial Reef Carysfort

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Photo Credit: NOAA

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 Habitat Focus Areas in the southeast region, and one Habitat Focus Area in the Caribbean.  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 Southeast and Caribbean 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.
Newly constructed tidal creeks

Newly constructed tidal creeks, Noisette Creek Restoration Project, North Charleston, SC.
Photo Credit: NOAA

Habitat in the Southeast and Caribbean

The NOAA Southeast and Caribbean region is defined by the land areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the marine environment adjacent to these lands.  Almost 43 million people live in the four Southeastern states of this region, while 3.8 million live in the U.S. Caribbean territories.  The region contains over 18,000 miles of coastline, with extensive marsh, barrier island, shellfish, mangrove, and coral reef systems.  Three large marine ecosystems support a diverse assemblage of marine life, with 18 protected marine species, over 600 marine managed areas, and one of the world’s largest shallow water coral reef ecosystems. These important natural resources face challenges from pollution, development, overfishing, invasive species, climate change and barriers to fish passage. 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 candidate habitat focus areas based on the primary outcomes and goals of Habitat Blueprint as well as a set of criteria established by the Southeast and Caribbean Focus Area Selection Team.

SteelesMill Dam Removal on Hitchcock Creek, Rockingham, NC.

SteelesMill Dam Removal on Hitchcock Creek,
Rockingham, NC. Photo Credit: NOAA

Our final candidate habitat focus areas for the Southeast are:

Our final candidate habitat focus areas for the Caribbean are:

You can read more about the criteria used by the Southeast and Caribbean 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 the Habitat Blueprint in the Southeast and Caribbean, please contact Howard Schnabolk or George Sedberry.

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