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Great Lakes spatial priorities study

September 1, 2022

Spatial data about the bathymetry, habitat characteristics, underlying geology, and other features of the ocean and inland seas are essential for decision-making. Marine research and management organizations use these data to help ensure safe navigation, promote sustainable fisheries, extract energy, and protect marine habitats in the coastal and ocean waters of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Laurentian Great Lakes. Many of these organizations may have overlapping or shared mapping interests without knowing it.

In a multi-jurisdictional planning environment, it can be challenging and cumbersome to determine where other entities have shared or overlapping mapping interests, especially across a transnational region such as the Great Lakes. State and provincial governments, federal governments, academia, tribes and First Nations, and other stakeholders from both the U.S. and Canada all have mapping interests across Great Lakes waters. Identifying and communicating target geographies for new data collection that are shared among multiple organizations can both help to avoid redundancy of new mapping efforts, and create opportunities for greater efficiency through collaboration.

To address this issue, a spatial priorities study was conducted using a geospatial tool developed by the National Ocean Services National Centers for Coastal and Ocean Science (NCCOS). The tool provided an easy-to-use online interface in which programs can identify their priorities in a simple and straightforward way. This study asked representatives of Great Lakes management and science organizations to identify the areas for which they needed maps of lakebed features on a near-term, mid-term, and long-term timeframe, and why. Then, the responses were analyzed and overlaid to determine areas of shared mapping need and opportunity and to determine the types of map products needed.

The analysis revealed high interest among multiple organizations in discrete geographies including the Minnesota and Wisconsin shoreline from Duluth to the eastern extent of the Bayfield Peninsula, Green Bay in Lake Michigan, and the southern coastlines of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the St. Marys River, and the northern Lake Superior coastal waters near Grand Portage, MN. Lower priority mapping interest were distributed widely across all lakes, but tended to be concentrated in nearshore areas (<30 m depth).

The analysis also indicated that the top mapping justifications were Habitat/biota/natural area, Benthic exploration, Commercial and recreational fishing, and Scientific research. The top desired map product types were Elevation, Substrate/sub-bottom geologic characterization, and Habitat map/characterization, although participants on some lakes noted other less prevalent product types.

Following from previously conducted NOAA and non-NOAA Federal spatial prioritization exercises, the results of this regional focus can help mapping organizations better understand how their priorities align with the needs of regional organizations, allow for more efficient coordination and funding, and enable partners to leverage assets and resources to fill their most pressing data and information gaps across Great Lakes waters. The U.S. Mapping Coordination Site hosts the results of this study and other spatial prioritization studies. Through this website, one can interact with the study results along with recent and planned mapping efforts.

NOAA intends to update their spatial priorities on a three- to five-year basis. Future studies should strive to expand participation of federal agencies, state and local governments, federally-recognized tribes, academia, and private industry (among other stakeholders) to seek out ocean mapping partnerships in conjunction with the National Ocean Mapping, Exploration and Characterization (NOMEC) goals map once, use many times.”

Publication Year 2022
Title Great Lakes spatial priorities study
DOI 10.25923/4dzh-wh46
Authors Karen Gouws, Ashley Chappell, Meredith Westington, Cathleen Yung, Peter C. Esselman, Linden Brinks, Timothy Kearns, Xiaofan Zhang, Brandon Krumwiede, Ken Buja
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Series Title NOAA Technical Memorandum
Series Number NOS CS 51
Index ID 70237014
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Great Lakes Science Center