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Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

California Seafloor Mapping Program

California Seafloor Mapping Program

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The California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP) is a cooperative program to create a comprehensive coastal/marine geologic and habitat base map series for all of California's State waters. The California Ocean Protection Council (COPC) authorized funds to establish the CSMP in 2007 (COPC, 2007) and assembled a team of experts from state and federal agencies, academia, and private industry to develop the best approach to mapping and classifying coastal and marine geologic habitats, while at the same time updating all nautical charts. Initiated in 2008, the CSMP has collected bathymetry (underwater topography) and backscatter data (providing insight into the geologic makeup of the seafloor) that are being turned into habitat and geologic base maps for all of California's State Waters (mean high water line out to three nautical miles). Although the CSMP was originally developed to support the design and monitoring of marine reserves through the Marine Life Protection Act [California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), 2007], accurate statewide mapping of the seafloor has also contributed significantly to these efforts:

  • Definition of habitats for ecosystem-based management
  • Establishing baselines for long-term monitoring of coastal evolution related to climate change, large storms, and anthropogenic influences
  • Enabling modeling of coastal flooding from sea-level rise and large storms
  • Identifying offshore active faults and submarine landslides, providing the basis for earthquake and tsunami hazard assessments and hazard mitigation
  • Providing a database of sediment distribution and thickness, important input for regional sediment management
  • Enabling more effective regulation of offshore development
  • Improving maritime safety
  • Providing a framework for scientific research
  • Facilitating outreach to heighten public education and awareness of coastal ecosystems, resources, and issues

Data collected during this project reveal the seafloor offshore of the California coast in unprecedented detail (for example, see the movie below) and provide an ecosystem context for the effective management of this precious marine resource.

Virtual fly-through over the seafloor of Central California near San Francisco as if the water was drained from the ocean. The movie flies out of San Francisco Bay pausing over a field of large sand waves west of the Golden Gate, and then up to the Bolinas area revealing folded and fractured bedrock. The movie then turns south flying down the coast past Pacifica and towards Half Moon Bay again revealing folded and fractured bedrock beneath the Maverick’s surf break. The movie finishes by flying over very complex seafloor of folded bedrock, fault scarps, and ripple scour depressions south of Half Moon Bay and offshore San Gregorio State Beach. The seafloor is colored for depth with reds and oranges representing shallower regions and dark blues and purples representing deeper regions.

CSMP is a collaboration between State and Federal agencies, the academic community, and the private sector. Partners include:

For more information, contact Guy Cochrane or Sam Johnson.

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