Human Use Data Synthesis for Ocean Planning

Human Use Data Synthesis for Ocean Planning
Different data types showcasing differences in 1) data structure, 2) content, and 3) activity vs infrastructure designation.

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) contracted with RPS and SeaPlan to develop synthesized spatial products characterizing human use in the Mid-Atlantic region. The primary purpose of this analysis was to identify broad regional trends in data presence and human use activity in the region. RPS and SeaPlan completed an assessment of existing human use spatial data products and synthesized 60+ datasets to create grids that summarize the distribution of human activity and a variety of infrastructure and regulated areas. SeaPlan led the data gathering and assessment phase to characterize data availability, timeliness, completeness, caveats, and gaps. RPS led the data synthesis effort, which integrated information into 10 km² grid cells and summarized the data cumulatively as well as across a set of logical themes to assess regional trends.

The source data contained a wide variety of content and underlying data structures. This challenge was addressed by outlining key information in each dataset and classifying data into five sector-based themes for Maritime, Fishing, Recreation, Energy, and Security, along with designations for whether the data depicted human activity or infrastructure/regulatory areas.

RPS categorized this information for each dataset and generated individual grids with a uniform set of attributes describing the types and amount of data present within each grid cell.

Date Type Dataset Theme Characteristic Statistics
Point Recreational Activities Recreational Activities Activity Count of survey records
Point Ports Maritime Infrastructure Count of locations
Line Submarine Cables Maritime Infrastructure Length (km)
Polygon BOEM Wind Planning Area Energy Infrastructure (Regulatory) Area (km2)
Raster Communities at Sea Fishing Activity Area (km2)
Outline of a subset of source datasets with key information.
Heat map of synthesized maritime data in MARCO portal show number of datasets per cell in quantile breakdowns (

Once all datasets were gridded in 10 km² cells at an individual level they were aggregated at a cumulative and theme level, with details for each contributing dataset (e.g. type and number of recreational activities, number of ports, name and area of wind planning areas, and coverage/intensity of fishing activity).

In addition to creating heat maps that show the count of layers per grid cell, RPS produced a set of use intensity heat maps to identify how much of the underlying data occurred within each cell. This standardized approach was useful in identifying trends in the Maritime and Fishing themes, which had large contributions of gridded activity data.

RPS delivered the data products to MARCO with descriptive field aliases, layer files, FGDC compliant documentation, brief layer descriptions, and a detailed project report.