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SEACAR - Habitats and Indicators


The Statewide Ecosystem Assessment of Coastal and Aquatic Resources (SEACAR) Resource Assessment and Steering Teams identified the following habitats for inclusion in the SEACAR assessment:

  • Water Columna
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV)b
  • Oyster/Oyster Reef
  • Coastal Wetlands (Salt Marsh to Mangrove)
  • Coral/Coral Reef

a Water Column - a conceptual column of water from the surface of a sea, river or lake to the bottom sediments, which is used to describe the different features found in the water at different depths (National Oceanographic Center, 2016); b Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) - Grasses that grow to the surface of — but do not emerge from — shallow water (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016).


An ecological indicator is a measurable characteristic of an ecosystem that is related to the ecosystem’s structure, composition or functioning. Ecological indicators can be used as a way to measure the state of a resource, its quality and/or level of stress. In addition, Ecological Indicators can provide a measure of ecological composition, structure and function (Dale and Beyeler, 2001). Measured over time, they can provide a means of tracking the statuses and trends of aquatic resources.

To develop the indicators for the assessment, SEACAR relied on current knowledge and long-term ecological monitoring programs as sources of data. Criteria for establishing indicators included:

  • Show statewide and site-specific trends over time;
  • Allow comparisons between sites and across the state;
  • Illustrate habitat change over time driven by biotic and abiotic factors which define community structure;
  • Allow data/results to directly inform and/or be utilized in local and state natural resource management decisions, submerged land planning and/or restoration;
  • Allow for site and/or regional specific environments and conditions (while being comparable statewide).

The Resource Assessment Data and Partner Teams reviewed available resources and representative long-term data to identify key indicators for analysis within each of the five priority submerged habitats. An inventory of monitoring data within coastal and aquatic managed areas was utilized to further define the final indicators for analysis and expose information gaps and monitoring needs.

Indicators Identified for Inclusion in SEACAR Assessment

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

  • Percent Cover (by species)1
  • Acreage2
  • Water Clarity3

Water Column

  • Nutrients
  • Water Quality4
  • Water Clarity3
  • Nekton5

Coral/Coral Reef

  • Community Composition6
  • Grazers and Reef-dependent Species
  • Percent Cover

Oyster/Oyster Reef

  • Density
  • Acreage2
  • Percent Live
  • Size Class

Coastal Wetlands (Salt Marsh to Mangrove)

  • Acreage (by habitat)2
  • Species Composition

1Established with field surveys and includes algae; 2Calculated through digital interpretation of aerial photography; 3Includes chlorophyll a, turbidity, secchi depth and light attenuation; 4Includes dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature and pH; 5Free swimming marine organisms -  focus on fisheries data and species composition;  6Includes percent cover and density of gorgonians and corals.

Last Modified:
February 24, 2020 - 3:09pm

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