Ocean Observing to Improve Healthy Ecosystems and Water Quality
GCOOS Product Examples
Other Product Examples


The overall goal of GCOOS is to empower people, communities and businesses to improve decision-making about our lives, work, and play along the Nation’s Gulf Coast. The aim of the Healthy Ecosystems and Water Quality focus is to preserve and restore healthy ecosystems, and to protect water quality. In the Gulf of Mexico, events, like hypoxia (areas of low oxygen levels) and outbreaks of harmful algal blooms (HABs) are occurring in more areas, at greater frequencies. Pollutants, pathogens and other contaminants threaten public beaches, shellfish stocks and drinking water supplies. Many fish stocks are in decline due to fishing pressure, loss of spawning and other habitats, and changes in water temperature and chemistry. GCOOS plays an important role in protecting healthy ecosystems and water quality by providing easy access to sound, integrated data and specialized products.

Karenia brevis (Florida FWC)

Karenia brevis (Florida FWC)

Needs related to Healthy Ecosystems and Water Quality include, for example:

  • Efficient tracking of oil spilled into surface and subsurface waters;
  • Monitoring biodiversity in the coastal waters to improve fisheries and ecosystem management;
  • Keeping our coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangrove forests healthy;
  • Preserving and restoring healthy marine ecosystems (including living marine resources); and
  • Managing resources.

Activities included under this focus provide support for:

  • Promoting healthy fisheries by measuring larval transport, stock assessments, migration patterns;
  • Protection of living marine resources; monitoring of hypoxia;
  • Prediction and mitigation of HABs;
  • Tracking, monitoring, and mitigation of pollutants and pathogens;
  • Data and models for ecosystem-based management for marine protected areas and ecological decision support;
  • Monitoring ocean conditions for aquaculture;
  • Management of marine mammal, sea turtle, and endangered species; and
  • Monitoring ocean acidification and impacts on plankton, shellfish, and coral reef health.

Ocean Observing to Improve Healthy Ecosystems and Water Quality

To help meet these needs, ocean observations are needed on:

  • River discharge and associated nutrient and pollutant loading;
  • Upwelling areas;
  • Surface and subsurface distribution and fluxes of dissolved nutrients and oxygen;
  • Surface currents, waves, and wind; subsurface currents;
  • Algal and toxin concentrations;
  • Fish stocks;
  • Sea surface temperature and chlorophyll, satellite-derived products including sea surface temperature and surface chlorophyll distributions;
  • Forecasts of surface winds, currents, temperatures, and waves; and
  • Oceanic habitats (i.e., benthic and water-column habitats).

GCOOS is helping to provide these observations and data products.

GCOOS Product Examples

The following listing includes examples of GCOOS products related to Healthy Ecosystems and Water Quality. Most GCOOS products include mobile map versions.

  The Phytoplankton Time Series at Port Aransas, part of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANEER) program – images of phytoplankton species taken from an Imaging FlowCytobot, along with chlorophyll fluorescence data.
  GCOOS Data Portal – for current conditions on in situ (air temperature, air pressure, relative humidity, water temperature, salinity, winds, dissolved oxygen, solar radiation, water level) and remotely sensed (currents) data.
  Recent Observations – for recent observations at stations; images on surface conditions for sea surface pressure, sea surface temperature, air temperature, and winds at 10 m depth and above; and images of sub-surface currents for 2-600 m depth.
  Model Forecasts – for forecast images and animations on weather, waves-currents-surge, sea surface temperature and more.
  Satellite Data Images – for images of sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, water vapor, visible, low cloud (lower atmospheric) conditions, and more.
  Lionfish (Invasive Species to the Gulf of Mexico) Distribution Map – an interactive map of invasive lionfish distribution throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
  Real-Time High Frequency Radar Data in the Northeastern Gulf – for real-time data on surface currents in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico
  Real-Time High Frequency Radar Data in the Eastern Gulf – for real-time data on surface currents in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
  River Discharge Data Set – data from 55 rivers that discharge into the Gulf of Mexico
  GCOOS Glider Maps – For interactive maps showing glider tracks and data in the Gulf of Mexico
  Oil and Gas Platforms – for an interactive map of oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. This product requires the Silverlight Plug-in.
  Oil Spill Resources – page summarizing oil spill resources at GCOOS and externally, with current conditions, forecasts, and observations
  Beach Quality Information Sheet – fact sheet about beach quality
  Hypoxia in the Gulf Information Sheet – fact sheet about hypoxia
  Interactive Map of Sea Level Rise Potential Impacts to Coastal Habitats – Coming soon!
  Integrated Water Quality Network – Coming soon! This in-development product will be an interactive map with integrated water quality monitoring data, from rivers-to-oceans, for the U.S. Gulf Coast States. A pilot project is currently underway in Southwest Florida with the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. SCCF’s water quality data is currently available through the GCOOS Data Portal. GCOOOS water quality experts are also initiating similar efforts in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  Harmful Algal Bloom Integrated Observing System (HABIOS) – Coming soon! This in-development product will be an interactive map with integrated station and AUV data on harmful algal blooms along the Gulf coast and Continental Shelf. A plan is available at

Other Product Examples

NOAA Harmful Algal Blooms Observing System
NOAA Gulf of Mexico Data Atlas
NOAA CSC Data Sets – including bathymetric, LIDAR, benthic habitats, and more
Northern Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Survey 2013 results
EPA Water Quality at Gulf Coast Beaches
USGS Regional SPARROW Model of Nutrient Loading
GOMA Nutrient Reduction Toolbox

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