Ocean – Tools

Science and information are fundamental to effective marine planning. Marine planning involves inclusive discussion and analyses of the status and potential uses of 3-dimensional areas of coastal, marine, and Great Lakes ecosystems (including the water column) and their potential changes over time. Decision-support tools can help inform the marine planning process. Below you will find links to several tools that are currently available. If you have developed a tool for marine planning and would like to share it here, please contact us using our Feedback page.

Available Tools

Click on each link to learn more about the purpose, methodology, and application of a tool or collection of tools.

  • Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES)
    URL:
    http://www.ariesonline.org/
    Purpose:
    ARIES was designed to make land use policy and environmental decisions easier and more effective by helping users map and quantify environmental assets and the factors that influence their value. ARIES allows users to model and quantify the impacts of landscape feature changes on the provision of ecosystem services, thereby allowing the evaluation and comparison of alternative scenarios for climate change, land use, or land cover scenarios and policies for addressing them. Modeling the flow of ecosystem services from their source to use locations allows critical pathways (and their intersections) to be identified that are necessary for one or more services to travel across time and space. This information can be used to establish sensible and sustainable policies for governing land development, habitat protection, and ecosystem restoration efforts. ARIES can be used in any geographical area to explicitly map the linkages between ecosystems that provide services and particular groups of human beneficiaries. Additionally, the ARIES platform fills a void in current methodologies for quantifying ecosystem services through its use of semantic modeling and the inclusion of Bayesian and artificial intelligence techniques.
    How it works:
    ARIES is a web accessible analytical tool that uses a range of approaches, such as probabilistic Bayesian models, machine learning, and pattern recognition to assess the provision, use, and flow of ecosystem services on a user-identified landscape. These approaches allow users to evaluate and compare alternative policy and land-use scenarios in terms of their impact on the provision of crucial ecosystem services. ARIES is intended to be generally applicable to a variety of ecosystem services in any region in the world, yet comprehensive in its modeling approach, and designed so that users can create interfaces around specific workflows without knowledge of all the engine components. Moreover, its use of sophisticated statistical models provides a framework for tracking uncertainty and leveraging multi-scaled information in a fully transparent way.
    Application:
    ARIES has been used for projects involving carbon sequestration, flood and sediment regulation, water provision, aesthetics, recreation, subsistence fisheries, and coastal protection.

  • Atlantis Ecosystem Model
  • CanVis
    URL:
    http://atlantis.cmar.csiro.au/ (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Current fishery management decisions are based on tactical models (short-term decision-making) that typically omit climate, oceanography, nutrient availability, food web interactions, and other aspects of ecology. Atlantis was developed as a full ecosystem simulation model that incorporates these factors in a spatially explicit way. The model is intended for use as a strategic planning tool (long-term decision-making) that can complement annual cycles of stock assessment and policy decisions by allowing users to test management policies and assessment methods against representations of complex ecosystems. Atlantis is primarily used in fishery applications where it allows users to identify tradeoffs between and among species, fishing gear types, management goals, and the direct and indirect effects of different management policies. Atlantis can also address issues related to marine habitat, nutrients, and biodiversity.
    How it works:
    Atlantis integrates physical, chemical, ecological, and fisheries dynamics in a three-dimensional, spatially explicit domain. In Atlantis, marine ecosystem dynamics are represented by spatially explicit sub-models that simulate hydrographic processes (current-, light- and temperature-driven fluxes of water and nutrients), biogeochemical factors driving primary production, food web relationships among functional groups, crude habitat interactions, and fishing fleet behavior. Atlantis uses a C++ code base that solves a series of differential equations across a three dimensional domain. Oceanography can be driven by state of the art hydrographic tools such as the regional ocean modeling system (ROMS). The ecological and fleet dynamics models are flexible, with many user choices for functional relationships.
    Application:
    Atlantis has been used for strategic evaluation of restructuring Southeastern Australia fishing fleets, the NOAA Integrated Ecosystem Assessment for the California Current, the Marine Stewardship Council Forage Fish Harvest Guidelines, and consideration of ground fish fleet impacts on protected marine mammals in the California Current.

  • Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard
    URL:
    http://www.csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/publications/cmecs (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) provides a comprehensive national framework for organizing information about coasts and oceans and their living systems. This information includes the physical, biological, and chemical data that are collectively used to define coastal and marine ecosystems.
    How it works:
    CMECS classifies the environment into biogeographic and aquatic settings that are differentiated by features influencing the distribution of organisms, and by salinity, tidal zone, and proximity to the coast. Within these systems are four underlying components that describe different aspects of the seascape. These components provide a structured way to organize information and a standard terminology. The components can be mapped independently or combined as needed.
    Application:
    CMECS is designed for use within all waters ranging from the head of tide to the limits of the exclusive economic zone, and from the spray zone to the deep ocean. It is compatible with existing upland and wetland classification standards and can be used with most if not all data collection technologies. Because of these characteristics, this standardization allows scientists to use and compare data from various sources and time frames.

  • Coastal Resilience
    URL:
    http://www.coastalresilience.org/ (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Adaptation to coastal hazards has traditionally been undertaken using shoreline hardening and engineered defenses. Alternative approaches to building infrastructure, such as ecosystem-based adaptation, are necessary as part of an overall strategy for creating resilient human communities in the face of climate change. Coastal Resilience was developed to help practitioners and stakeholders understand how they can make informed decisions about marine and coastal conservation, land protection, and coastal development, and implement ecosystem-based adaptation strategies. Coastal Resilience helps users visualize future conditions so they can design, build, and discuss alternative future scenarios that address sea level rise, storm surge, social and ecological vulnerability, and conservation priorities.
    How it works:
    The Coastal Resilience project delivers geospatial information on coastal ecosystems, socioeconomics, community vulnerability, and coastal hazards (including sea level rise and storm surge) via an internet mapping application that is a data viewer, data discovery tool, and a future scenario mapper. Coastal Resilience also includes a summary tool for calculating economic and ecological loss in specific geographies within the study area given different future scenarios. Coastal Resilience provides decision support to local decision-makers who are conducting their own comprehensive or post-storm redevelopment plans, and serves as an educational tool to inform stakeholders on the risks of sea level rise and storm surge.
    Application:
    Coastal Resilience has been used for data exploration with the New York State Emergency Management Office, and local towns and villages on Long Island and the Connecticut shores interested in including this information as part of their comprehensive plans.

  • Cumulative Impacts
    URL:
    http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/globalmarine (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Recent policy emphasis on comprehensive spatial management of the ocean suggests an urgent need for high resolution maps of human activities and their ecological impacts. Past approaches to evaluating the distribution and ecological impacts of human activities are almost all tailor-made to specific ecosystem types or management questions. Cumulative Impacts uses a new framework for modeling, mapping, and evaluating the cumulative impacts of human activities that is adaptable to a variety of management scenarios and scales, and amenable to a variety of analyses and applications. Cumulative Impacts was developed to support marine spatial planning and ecosystem-based management efforts by helping practitioners assess the most vulnerable locations, identify priority stressors to mitigate specific areas, identify compatible and incompatible ocean uses based on ecosystem vulnerability, map the most and least impacted areas within a planning region, and assess the relative contribution of stressors or suites of stressors to overall ecosystem condition. The Cumulative Impacts interactive map allows users to visualize how impacts are distributed throughout a region, identify the stressors that are contributing most to the impact score, and assess possible avenues for mitigating cumulative impacts.
    How it works:
    The Cumulative Impacts model uses spatial data and weighted expert opinion to predict a cumulative impact score for each unit (i.e. pixel) of the study region. This impact score for each unit is based on the type and intensity of anthropogenic drivers, the type of ecosystems present, and the assigned impact weight for each anthropogenic driver on a particular ecosystem. The model assumes that the presence of an anthropogenic driver has a negative impact on an ecosystem and that those impacts accumulate in an additive fashion.
    Application:
    Cumulative Impacts has primarily been used to set conservation and management priorities and assess the most vulnerable locations in an area. It has also been used by state agencies as a foundation for an environmental impact assessment.

  • Digital Coast
    URL:
    http://csc.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/list (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    The Digital Coast is used to address timely coastal issues, including land use, coastal conservation, hazards, marine spatial planning, and climate change. One of the goals behind the creation of the Digital Coast was to unify groups that might not otherwise work together. This partnership network is building not only a website, but also a strong collaboration of coastal professionals intent on addressing coastal resource management needs. Website content is provided by numerous organizations, but all must meet the site’s quality and applicability standards.
    How it works:
    The strength of the Digital Coast lies in its focus on the broad coastal resource management community. The Digital Coast Partnership is continuously working to grow the Digital Coast by defining, prioritizing, and obtaining relevant website content.
    Application:
    The Digital Coast provides relevant data and tools necessary to assess coastal management issues, such as coastal inundation, offshore renewable energy planning, coastal wetlands conservation, and sea level rise adaptation.

  • Ecosystem-Based Management Tools Network Database
    URL:
    http://www.ebmtoolsdatabase.org/ (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Human activities on land and in the ocean are changing coastal and marine ecosystems and threatening their ability to provide important benefits to society, such as healthy and abundant seafood, clean beaches, and protection from storms and flooding. Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) is an innovative management approach to address these challenges. It considers the whole ecosystem, including humans and the environment, rather than managing one issue or resource in isolation. The EBM Tools Network is an alliance of EBM tool users, providers, and researchers to promote the use and development of tools for EBM in coastal and marine environments and the terrestrial environments that affect them. The EBM Tools Database provides the most comprehensive source of information about tools and other resources for EBM.
    How it works:
    Users can search or browse the database to find tools for their coastal and marine management and conservation projects, case studies of projects that have used tools, potential collaborators, and other resources. They can also contribute information about their own tools, projects, and expertise. Use is completely free.
    Application:
    EBM tools are software or other highly documented methods that can help implement EBM by:

    • Providing models of ecosystems or key ecosystem processes.
    • Generating scenarios illustrating the consequences of different management decisions on natural resources and the economy.
    • Facilitating stakeholder involvement in planning processes.

  • EPA Metadata Editor
    URL:
    https://edg.epa.gov/EME/ (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    The EPA Metadata Editor (EME) is a software tool that aids the practical documentation of geospatial datasets. The simple EME application allows GIS professionals to create, edit and validate their metadata records in accordance with EPA Geospatial Metadata Technical Specification and Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) requirements.
    How it works:
    The EME has a streamlined design and integrated help system that uses defaults and drop-downs to simplify the process of creating metadata that meets FGDC requirements. EME v3.1.1 provides users with the ability to edit and synchronize FGDC CSDGM metadata in ArcGIS 10 as an ArcGIS Extension. EME can also run as a stand-alone desktop tool.
    Application:
    The EME has been used to create metadata for geospatial datasets worldwide.

  • Marine Integrated Decision Analysis System (MIDAS)
    URL:
    http://people.bu.edu/suchi/midas/index.html (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    The Marine Integrated Decision Analysis System (MIDAS) is a software tool that was developed with three main objectives in mind: (1) to assist the Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) users and managers in understanding the critical factors that influence the MMA’s effects so that they can plan accordingly; (2) to estimate likely MMA effects based on the ecological, socioeconomic and governance conditions; (3) and finally, to advise management plan revisions that will result in optimization of outcomes and outputs.
    How it works:
    The model can be described as a spatial decision support system to help MMA managers and users quickly analyze and visualize outcomes from the interaction of socio-economic, governance, and ecological factors of MMAs. Users can input data for 15 critical determining factors, five each for socio-economic, governance, and ecological factors. The tool then displays possible outcomes such as state of governance, livelihoods, ecosystem health, outcomes related to MMA effectiveness, and maps of the spatial distribution of risk.
    Application:
    MIDAS is being used by Conservation International to examine the ecological, socioeconomic and governance in 15 global sites as part of a Marine Managed Areas Global Management Effectiveness Study.

  • Marine InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs)
    URL:
    http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/InVEST.html (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Ecosystems provide a number of important benefits and services to humans. Despite their importance, services are poorly understood, scarcely monitored, and often only appreciated after they are lost. Recognizing, mapping, and valuing these ecosystem services can enable diverse stakeholders to find common ground and allow the true costs and benefits of natural resources to be incorporated into decisionmaking processes. InVEST was developed to use the conceptual framework of ecosystem services to inform management of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. InVEST identifies where ecosystem services are provided, where they are consumed, and how resource management decisions will affect multiple aspects of the economy, human well-being, and the environment. InVEST also shows where trade-offs and synergies may occur between and among different ecosystem services and biodiversity. InVEST can inform marine spatial planning and prioritization, permit allocation and mitigation, climate adaptation, food security planning, ecosystem-based management processes, and design of payments for ecosystem services or conservation agreements by helping users assess the current and potential status of ecosystem services under alternative, spatially explicit future scenarios.
    How it works:
    InVEST is composed of a number of models for different ecosystem services including, but not limited to, carbon storage, wave energy, recreation, fishery production, erosion control, habitat quality, water quality, crop pollination, and timber production. InVEST is designed to be flexible, such that users can choose models of interest, apply them at relevant spatial scales, populate them with available data, and choose outputs that are biophysical (e.g., meters of shoreline eroded) or socioeconomic (e.g. monetary values or number of people affected). The structure and composition of the InVEST models can and should be developed in collaboration with decision-makers or stakeholders to reflect their priority objectives, ecosystem services of interest, and available data. InVEST is a toolbox in ArcGIS and runs on both spatial and non-spatial physical, biological and economic data and information. The models are generally process-based and allow users to estimate how changes in ecosystem structure and function (due to management actions and climate change) influence the delivery and value of ecosystem services.
    Application:
    InVEST has been used in a wide variety of applications, including: spatial planning on land (e.g., Colombia, Hawai’i), marine and coastal systems (e.g., Canada, Belize), climate adaptation evaluation (e.g., Monterey Bay), payment for ecosystem services (e.g., Ecuador), return on restoration investments (e.g., Gulf of Mexico), permit allocation and mitigation (e.g., Colombia), and land-sea connections (e.g., Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay).

  • Marxan with Zones
    URL:
    http://www.uq.edu.au/marxan (You are leaving Data.gov website by clicking this URL.)
    Purpose:
    Marxan delivers decision support for spatial planning, particularly protected areas. It was originally developed to identify a network of locations for conservation management that meet biodiversity targets and are relatively socially and economically cost-effective. The program answers the reserve design issue known as the “minimum set problem,” where the goal is to achieve some minimum representation of biodiversity features for the smallest possible “cost” (which usually represents socioeconomic costs). Marxan with Zones was developed to further incorporate multiple zone types, the contributions of zones to different management targets, the costs of implementing different zones types in different locations, and interactions between zones. Marxan with Zones was also designed to generate spatial alternatives that meet the spatial objectives of the planning process (e.g., preference for zones that are spatially compact). Marxan can be used to explore and propose possible network configurations, facilitate collaborative network design, or guide decisions for land acquisition or marine zoning. Marxan with Zones can provide decision support for any problem that requires identifying a combination of sites to achieve targets for different zones simultaneously. The program has mostly been used for spatial planning to indicate potential locations for different types of activity or conservation management.
    How it works:
    Marxan uses a stepwise algorithm to identify combinations of sites that meet targets set for biodiversity or other features, while minimizing the sum of costs for protecting each of those areas. Costs to protection include user-supplied socioeconomic values, a weighting value for biodiversity features, and a boundary length modifier value to account for the “clumpiness” of a reserve. When penalties are too high, the spatial solution changes by replacing “high-cost” solutions with “lower-cost” solutions. Marxan was originally developed based on the principle of complementarity, such that sites that are most similar to other sites in their composition of features, such as species, are selected together. Marxan with Zones essentially operates as a multi-layered version of Marxan.
    Application:
    Marxan is typically used to recommend sets of locations that constitute a network. However, the program has also been used to conduct gap analyses and recommend areas that should be zoned for a purpose other than conservation, such as fishing. Marxan with Zones has mostly been used to inform spatial planning processes (e.g., marine reserves, area zoning), and identify broad areas of interest for conservation.

  • Multi-scale Integrated Models of Ecosystem Services (MIMES)
    URL: http://www.afordablefutures.com/services/mimes
    Purpose:
    MIMES helps practitioners develop arguments for approaching the conservation of ecosystems as a form of economic development, thus facilitating quantitative measures of ecosystem service effects on human well-being. MIMES is a modeling tool that can incorporate stakeholder input and a wide array of datasets for valuation and complex trade-offs analyses among ecosystem services. This multi-scale, integrated suite of models can help users assess the true value of ecosystem services by quantitatively linking the dynamics of ecosystem services to aspects of human welfare, and illustrating how the function and value of ecosystem services could change under various management scenarios. MIMES facilitates understanding of the context of spatial patterns of land use, the dynamics of value, and the spatial and temporal scales at which information is available for estimating ecosystem service production and delivery.
    How it works:
    MIMES simulates ecosystems and socio-economic systems in space by modeling systems over time, and the interactions between systems, and calculates specific values of ecosystem services through marginal cost pricing. The tool provides estimates of ecosystem service values for land use decision-making and marine spatial planning through scenario analyses, and considers the production of an array of ecosystem services.
    Application:
    MIMES is being used by the Massachusetts Ocean Partnership to examine the trade-offs between different sectors in spatial planning, and to model ecosystem service values at multiple scales.

  • MarineCadastre.gov
  • SeaSketch

    URL:
    http://www.marinecadastre.gov/

    Purpose:
    MarineCadastre.gov provides many of the data and analysis tools needed for ocean energy and marine planning in one location. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) developed the MarineCadastre.gov initiative to meet the requirements of the United States Energy Policy Act of 2005 and partnered with other organizations to bring together the most useful and relevant resources.How it works:MarineCadastre.gov contains authoritative and regularly updated data, including offshore boundary, infrastructure, human use, energy potential, biological, and other data of interest. The data registry provides quick access to data, and the map viewers enable users to visualize data and areas of potential conflict, particularly for renewable energy development. MarineCadastre.gov is strategically aligned with the White House Digital Government Strategy, as well as a major contributor to the ocean community on Data.gov, Digital Coast, and the National GeoPlatform.Application:The combination of marine cadastral and regionally specific data provides users with the spatial context needed to address issues such as alternative energy and other types of marine planning efforts.

  • U.S. Marine Protected Areas Online Mapping Tool

    URL:
    http://marineprotectedareas.noaa.gov/dataanalysis/mpainventory/mpaviewer/

    Purpose:
    The U.S. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) mapping tool is an interactive, online application designed, in partnership with the NOS Special Projects Office, to help users visualize MPA boundaries and provide access to the MPA Inventory data in an interactive web-based mapping environment.How it works:This mapping tool serves data on over 1,600 MPAs nationwide, offering easy access to spatial boundaries, conservation based classification data, and site management information. This dataset offers a detailed, contemporary picture of the type, abundance, and distribution of marine protected areas throughout the U.S.Application:The tool was designed to provide managers, scientists, and the public with an increased understanding and technical capacity for ocean resource protection, management and stewardship.