Data Aquisition and Meta-analysis of Habitat Information from Gulf of Mexico Trophic Studies Using Coastal Marine Ecological Classification
Species habitats are fundamental to the understanding of ecosystem functions and consequently effective management of ecological resources. The Gulf of Mexico is notorious among fisheries biologists and resource managers for the poor state of data accessibility and incomplete biological understanding. The project presents an initial step towards the development of an ecological information infrastructure emphasizing species habitats in the Gulf of Mexico with the following two complementary aims:
Aim #1: Test and revise the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard with fish habitat information in the Gulf of Mexico
Aim #2: Build a sample spatial database of fish habitats in the Gulf of Mexico based on 400 published and unpublished studies within the estuarine and marine environments in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the 64 large marine ecosystems of the world.
Both aims contribute to larger scopes of research endeavors. The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) is intended to be the classification standard relevant to all U.S. coastal and marine environments and applicable to local, regional, and continental scales. CMECS provides a uniform protocol for identifying and naming ecological units with common coding schemes. In this study, Aim #1 was addressed through extraction of ecological data from research publications to examine classification standards and coding schemes as specified in CMECS III released in February 2009. Application of CMECS to ecological data from the literature illuminated practical issues that highlight needs for further CMECS improvements.
The GIS database of fish habitats developed in fulfillment of Aim #2 contributes to filling the ecological knowledge gap in the Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, this study will become one piece of a cyber infrastructure of eco-informatics for species habitats and trophic dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico that will facilitate research of the spatiotemporal patterns in the habitat and tropic structure of macro- and mega-fauna in the large marine ecosystem. Combined with CMECS, the methodology we developed in this project is expected to be readily applicable to other marine ecosystems.