Symposium Abstract: A System for Classification of Habitats in Estuarine and Marine Environments: Florida Perspective
K. A. Madley
A standard, benthic habitat classification system for Florida does not exist. Over fourteen different classification systems have been used with Florida mapping projects to date. This is problematic for efforts to compile statewide habitat area estimates, produce habitat maps for the entire state, or compare habitats across regions. Implementation of a standardized classification system will be a large step toward more reliable characterization of Florida seafloor habitats. The Florida Marine Research Institute has studied the classification systems used throughout Florida and the tropics and subtropics as well as successful efforts in terrestrial habitat characterization. The goal has been to combine appropriate components of a variety of systems to form a hierarchical classification system to propose as a strawman for further testing in Florida. We have formed this scheme with guidance from the Allee et al. 2000 NOAA Technical Memorandum for the purpose of creating a habitat characterization system compatible with the forthcoming national classification system. The Gulf of Mexico program has interest in eventually expanding the Florida classification system to encompass habitats for all of the Gulf states. The goal would then be to coordinate adoption of this classification system to be used by all mapping agencies involved with Gulf of Mexico habitat classification. This would enhance fishery habitat comparisons among Gulf states thus assisting fishery and habitat resource managers.