French Frigate Shoals: Benthic Habitat Map System

[ Bathymetry | Backscatter | Optical Validation | Geomorphology ]


The French Frigate Shoals benthic habitat map system consists of a number of separate map layers, each of which characterizes some aspect of the seafloor. All of the map layers include coverage of the island and or coastal waters of French Frigate Shoals and have all been integrated into a single map system. Map layers include: multibeam bathymetry, backscatter imagery, hyperlinked underwater photographs and/or video still framegrabs of the benthos, seafloor classification results of living cover and substrate from optical imagery, depth contours, layers of geomorphic information (slope, rugosity, Bathymetric Position Index (BPI) Structures, and BPI Zones), digital NOAA nautical charts, Ikonos satellite imagery where available, and terrestrial topography.

The philosophy behind this map system is based on the realization that one set of habitat boundaries cannot be applied to all life stages of all species of interest in a coral reef ecosystem. As an alternative, a suite of map layers have been produced that display different biologically important seafloor characteristics that are logistically and technologically feasible to map. The GIS and data layers provide the flexibility of using unique combinations of information to address a wide range of specific management and research questions. For example, nursery habitat for one species of bottomfish in Hawaii has been found to range between depths of 60 to 90 m in areas with flat expanses of fine grained sediment, near focused sources of terrestrial drainage. Resource managers interested in identifying bottomfish nursery habitat around French Frigate Shoals could use the map layers included in this system to identify sites meeting these criteria, which could then serve as a starting point for the collection of additional data.

These data are incorporated into independent ArcMap and ArcReader projects. ArcReader is a software package that can be downloaded and installed free of charge (see link below), and enables the user to view and perform limited manipulations of these map layers.

Software Requirements: ArcGIS 9.2 or ArcReader Version 9.2 is required to use the Benthic Habitat Map System. If a user has ArcGIS 9.2 installed he/she may use the ArcGIS Map Document (.mxd). If the user does NOT have ArcGIS 9.2, he/she must install ArcReader 9.2 and use the ArcReader project (.pmf) to see the benthic habitat map system. Click here to Download ArcReader and choose ‘Download ArcReader 9.2 for Windows’. To learn more about the use of the program, the .zip file that you download includes an ‘ArcReader Tutorial’.

ArcReader Project

Image map of French Frigate Shoals bathymetry.

Download this image as a high-res JPG or PDF


Download data and project files

The Habitat Map Data Download will open a zipped file. Open it and extract all of its contents to a location on your hard drive. In order to keep hyperlinks to photos functional, choose a folder path that does NOT include spaces. For example, extract the zipped file contents to C:\Workspace\Habitat_Map (hint: do not put it under the “Documents and Settings” folder). If you are using ArcReader, the paths work seemlessly; in ArcMap, the folder location that you extract all of the files to will also be the hyperlink path to use in the ArcMap Document Properties (hint: find Document Properties under the File pull-down menu).

The projects listed below have identical data sets. While the ArcReader version allows a user to query and view the data, it allows limited manipulation and spatial analysis options. The ArcMap version allows a use of the full functionality of ArcGIS and its extensions.

Request a DVD with data and project files – The DVD includes the ArcMap and ArcReader projects along with all of the associated data and metadata

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Benthic Habitat Data


Zipped bathymetry data files contain 1) grid data file (GMT or ASCII), 2) JPG and PDF of image, and 3) explanatory metadata text file.

5m grid data

Downloadable 1m grid data available on backscatter page

ArcGIS & ArcReader projects which integrate acoustic & optical data with reference to available terrestrial data.

Zipped data files contain 1) Arc ASCII file, 2) layer (.lyr) file for symbology, 3) high-res JPG of image, and 4) explanatory metadata text file (identical to linked file listed below).

5m grid data files