- The Nearshore Assessment Tool for Alaska: Southeast (NATAK-SE) is a standardized protocol for rapidly assessing the habitat and functions of a particular marine or estuarine shore segment (intertidal zone and immediately adjoining upland) anywhere in Southeast Alaska. It consists of data forms and a spreadsheet. It has a Rapid component and a Biosurvey component. Both can be completed during a one-day visit to a shore segment. Only the Rapid protocol should be used if the user lacks skills at basic identification of seaweeds and macroinvertebrates. Use of the Biosurvey protocol, which adds to the information provided by the Rapid protocol, is recommended for persons who do have those identification skills because it provides a more accurate and meaningful assessment. Rapid assessments of vegetated tidal wetlands (salt marshes) should be done with a separate tool developed by the author for the Southeast Alaska Land Trust (SEAL Trust), called WESPAK-SE Tidal Calculator. For all other intertidal habitats (rocky shores, gravel flats, sand beaches, etc.), NATAK-SE is the appropriate tool.
At the scale of a shore segment mapped by the NOAA ShoreZone Program (Harper & Morris 2014), NATAK-SE is intended to provide a preliminary indication of the relative diversity and importance of the segment as habitat for several biological resources and ecological functions. NATAK-SE does so by providing a consistent platform for summarizing and applying existing natural resource information as well as providing a practical approach for collecting and processing new data. This allows comparison with reference data collected previously using both the Rapid and Biosurvey components of NATAK-SE at 47 shore segments throughout the region.
During a single visit around the time of daily low tide, NATAK-SE users answer 16 questions based mainly on their observations. In addition, 13 questions are answered using online resources prior to the visit, and additional data are pasted into the spreadsheet from a reference table. NATAK-SE then automatically generates scores on a scale of 0 (lowest relative capacity or function) to 10 (highest) which reflect seven attributes of the shore segment: Food Web Diversity, Focal Fish Habitat, Sea and Shore Bird Habitat, Pinniped Habitat, Buffer Habitat for Wildlife, Subsidy Function, and Filter Function. The scores are automatically compared with (normalized to) those from the statistical sample of 47 other shore segments in the region. No "overall" score is computed. Shore segments that may differ with regard to substrate type, salinity, wave exposure, human disturbances, and other factors can be compared.
The scores and supporting documentation can be used to help evaluate applications for new structures (e.g., piers, bulkheads, bridges) within all or part of a shore segment, or can be used with other tools to help prioritize conservation or restoration opportunities. In addition, this study's consistently-collected survey data on seaweeds and intertidal macroinvertebrates provide a baseline for future use assisting evaluations of major trends in these resources.
|Funding Statement (additional comments about funding)
- Funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, through the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development, Grant #10-CIAP-0009, “Habitat Mapping and Analysis Project”