The Florida Coastal Mapping Program

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The Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP) is an initiative between Federal and Florida State agencies and institutions to coordinate and facilitate the collection and accessibility of Florida coastal seafloor data in order to fill priority areas and gaps.

Photo of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restoration work on coastline of St. Augustine, Florida

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers restores the coastline of St. Augustine Beach, Florida, for protection and recreational use. The sand for the project comes from the seabed offshore of northeast Florida. Fifty-nine percent of Florida's beaches are experiencing erosion. (Credit: Mark Bias. Public domain.)

The State of Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States (2,170 km). The coastal zone is heavily populated (76% of the state population lives in coastal counties) and contains 1,900 km of sandy beaches that support economically important recreation and tourism. Florida’s coastal waters are among the most valuable coastal zones in the nation generating over $30 billion in revenue per year, host the largest number of recreational boats and saltwater fishermen in the country, as well as important marine mineral resources and unique ecosystems. There is continual need for high resolution data of the coast and adjacent seafloor for resource and habitat mapping, understanding coastal vulnerability, evaluating performance of restoration projects, and many other coastal and marine spatial planning efforts.

To address the increasing need for coastal seafloor data, the USGS and the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), in 2017, spearheaded the Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP), which is an initiative between Federal and Florida State agencies and institutions to assess existing data, and develop a prioritization and strategy for filling gaps with high resolution data for all of Florida’s coastal waters from the shore to the shelf edge. To accomplish this goal, a steering committee composed of four Federal and four State agencies are working together closely to coordinate ongoing and future planned mapping efforts, and engage with stakeholders through workshops and other communications to prioritize new data collection and set consistent mapping standards. The goal is to implement a strategy to have complete, consistent, high resolution data for all of Florida’s coastal waters by 2028.

Why USGS SPCMSC?

The USGS provides science about natural hazards, water, energy, minerals, ecosystem and environmental health, and the impacts of land use and climate change. This USGS mission is aligned with the vision of the Florida Coastal Mapping Program which is “Accessible, high resolution seabed data of Florida’s coastal waters to support infrastructure, habitat mapping, restoration projects, resource management, emergency response, and coastal resiliency and hazard studies for the citizens of Florida.” Within the coastal zone, the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center supports scientific investigations on topics including coastal impacts due to erosion, storms, and sea-level rise, coral reef processes, march and estuarine shoreline change, and modeling coastal processes, all of which require high resolution data of seafloor elevation.

Florida Coastal Mapping Program organizational chart

Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP) organizational chart showing co-chairs, steering committee, and technical team. (Public domain.)

Why Map Florida’s Coastal Waters?

Graphic location map shows the six regions of FCMaP

Florida Coastal Mapping Program (FCMaP) location map shows the six regions for gap analysis and prioritization; the Panhandle, Big Bend, West Florida Peninsula, the Florida Keys, the southeast coast, and the northeast coast. (Public domain.)

  • The coast is highly vulnerable (and experiences rapid change due) to hurricanes and sea level rise impacts
  • Many areas of the Florida coastal waters have not been mapped, or existing maps are old and of low resolution
  • Up to date characterization of coastal systems helps managers develop effective strategies to protect human health and infrastructure
  • New high resolution maps of the seabed are a necessary investment if Florida is going to continue to grow its blue economy and facilitate sustainable aquaculture & alternative energy
  • New high resolution coastal topographic and bathymetric maps will dramatically increase scientific baseline characterization of coastal resources (sand availability and habitats) and processes that drive changes 
  • The Florida coast has the highest density of human population and infrastructure, an accurate physical characterization is necessary for effective coastal management

Completed maps of the seafloor would support numerous applications that require high resolution data including:

  • Baseline management and restoration data
  • Baseline habitat mapping data
  • Baseline monitoring data
  • Quantify change
  • Siting instruments
  • Sediment budgets
  • Modeling
  • Coastal processes
  • Coral processes
  • Geologic history

Rather than piecemeal data collection with varying resolution and mapping standards as has been done traditionally, a comprehensive and coordinated approach will increase efficiency, reduce cost, and benefit multiple stakeholders.