Local officials are using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s OpenNSPECT, the Nonpoint Source Pollution and Erosion Comparison Tool, to estimate the amount of runoff, sediment, and pollutants that drain into coastal waters where corals reside, and to explore how various restoration and land use activities might impact corals.

Land use activities such as timber management, agriculture, and development produce byproducts that can contaminate waterways inhabited by coral communities. Land-based sources of pollution can disrupt growth and cause disease or death in corals.

OpenNSPECT users can enter land cover, soil, rainfall, and elevation data to generate estimates on how various land use and climate scenarios impact water quality. The results are used to identify areas that might benefit from changes to proposed development strategies.

Puerto Rico offers a good example. Coral managers in Puerto Rico used OpenNSPECT to evaluate the effectiveness of protecting corals by restoring highly erodible, exposed lands through hydroseeding, a planting process that uses a slurry of seed and mulch.

OpenNSPECT showed that hydroseeding reduced sediment runoff from treated areas into the Guánica Bay – Rio Loco watershed by greater than 80 percent. The January 2015 technical report provides details on the process used to compare before and after scenarios.

Users can download OpenNSPECT at www.coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/opennspect.

Virtual trainings for OpenNSPECT are offered four times each year for users with intermediate computer-mapping, or GIS, skills. This instructor-led training demonstrates the various tool functions and provides hands-on exercises for participants.

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