New NOAA Website Highlights Economic, Ecological Value of Nation's Coast

NOAA has launched State of the Coast, a new website that provides coastal managers, planners, and officials at all levels of government a snapshot of statistics, facts, and graphics about America's 95,000-miles of coastline. The agency says the site is designed to provide the tools for better decision-making and for communicating the importance of healthy coastal ecosystems for a robust national economy and better quality of life.

Created and maintained by NOAA's National Ocean Service, the site can be accessed online at Its indicators are based on longer-term, national datasets and do not currently reflect the ecological, economic, and social impacts of the BP oil spill on the Gulf Coast, NOAA notes.

What the site does offer are quick facts and detailed statistics about the coast's benefits to society, its degraded state, and the continuing threats to its health, including impacts of a changing climate. The site also offers case studies and management success stories that highlight often complex connections across several themes. Visualizations highlight important aspects of the nation's coasts, such as anticipated changes in coastal population from 1970 to 2040, the impact coastal areas have on the U.S. economy, the overall health of the U.S. coasts, and coastal areas' vulnerability to long-term sea level rise.

Statistics listed on the website under different topic headings include:

  • Communities: Fifty-two percent of the nation's total population live in 673 coastal counties in 2010 (17 percent of the total U.S. land area excluding Alaska).
  • Economy: Coastal counties contributed $7.9 trillion to GDP, more than half of the U.S. GDP in 2007.
  • Ecosystems: Seventy-five percent of U.S. coral resources in the Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico region are rated in "Poor" or "Fair" condition.
  • Climate: Sixteen percent of the U.S. population residing in the 100-year coastal flood hazard area were below poverty level in 2009.

With more than two dozen federal agencies contributing to the U.S. coastal management paradigm, NOAA's State of the Coast has partnered with other federal agencies to present national-level assessments and datasets that tell the broader "story of the coast." NOAA says it will continue to work with these partners over time to update the website with the most current information as it becomes available.

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