Natural Geography in Shore Areas (NaGISA)

An international collaborative effort that inventoried and monitored biodiversity in the narrow inshore zone of the world's oceans at depths of less than 20 meters.

Yoshihisa Shirayama
Brenda Konar
Katrin Iken
Patricia Miloslavich


Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi
Edward Kimani
Juan José Cruz Motta
Gerhard Pohle


Project Leaders:

Yoshihisa Shirayama, Ph.D., Seto Marine Biological Laboratory, Kyoto University, Wakayama, Japan

Brenda Konar, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Marine Science, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Katrin Iken, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Marine Science, Fairbanks, AK, USA

Patricia Miloslavich, Ph.D., Universidad Simón Bolivar, Miranda, Venezuela

Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi, Ph.D., University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy

Edward Kimani, Ph.D.,  Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Mombassa, Kenya

Juan José Cruz Motta, Ph.D., Universidad Simón Bolívar, Miranda, Venezuela

Gerhard Pohle, Ph.D., The Huntsman Marine Science Centre, St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada

Visit the NaGISA website.


Wading through a Seagrass bed in Phuket, Thailand, a
NaGISA member brings back valuable samples for the
lab. Taken by S. Bussarawit, Oct 2004.

The Natural Geography In Shore Areas (NaGISA) project was a collaborative effort aimed at inventorying and monitoring habitat specific biodiversity in the global near shore. The international character of the project and its target zone were reflected in the word nagisa, which is Japanese for the narrow coastal zone where the land meets the sea. NaGISA held a unique position in the Census of Marine Life as an ambassador project, linking the Census to local interests around the world. NaGISA's first aim was to draw up a global baseline of nearshore biodiversity and then to use its network to continue monitoring those same shores for the next 50 years.

Methods and Technology
NaGISA used both passive and active sampling to assess quantitative, qualitative ecological, and taxonomic information from the nearshore zone. Employing a simple, cost-efficient and intentionally low-tech sampling protocol, NaGISA fulfilled its goal of a series of well-distributed standard transects from the high intertidal zone to 20 meters water depth around the world by 2009. This was possible as the protocols were widely adaptable and had been adopted by research groups in many different countries. The simple design of the protocols and unique nested sampling hierarchy allowed not only local community involvement but satisfied the technical/statistical needs of a global census.

NaGISA targeted two specific habitats: rocky bottom macroalgal communities and soft bottom seagrass communities. Both are complex, globally occurring ecosystems that were far less well characterized than they should be. At each NaGISA study site, replicate samples were collected at the high, mid and low intertidal and at 1, 5 and 10m subtidal zones (15 and 20m are done whenever possible). Two levels of target sampling were undertaken, both of which include measurement of physical parameters such as surface and bottom seawater temperature, salinity, etc. 

            1. Non-invasive sampling using photography and observational techniques, percent cover estimates of colonial invertebrates and rhizoidal macroalgae and counts of algal stipes and solitary fauna within quadrats.
            2. Invasive sampling, or direct removal, consisting of core samples taken within sea grass beds, and careful and complete removal of all organisms (macro and meio) from the smallest quadrats within macroalgal sites.

A Rock fish swims between the kelp at 5m depth
in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Taken by
C. Debenham, June 2003.

Data Availability
Data collected through the NaGISA project were made publicly available through the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS, OBIS is an online global atlas where NaGISA data can be accessed, modeled and mapped along with data from other sources in a multidimensional geographic context. NaGISA data were also incorporated into a unique quantitative non-relational member-based database that will be opened to the public sometime after 2010.

The Future
Biodiversity is one potential measure of ecosystem health, and a measure of biological interactions such as competition, disturbance, facilitation, predation, recruitment, and productivity of a system. On a larger scale, biodiversity measurements can serve as an indicator of the balance between speciation and extinction. Inventorying and monitoring biodiversity are crucial and fundamental tasks for identifying and clarifying activities that impact ecosystems. NaGISA provided baseline data for long-term monitoring, as well as information needed to answer fundamental questions concerning changes in biodiversity with latitude and longitude. The great strength of NaGISA was that the Census goals of global biodiversity coverage could be met and financed through locally vested interests in every coastal country in the world, while promoting a standardized data matrix suitable for testing a wide range of ecological theories and solving practical problems. No other project has ever dealt with biodiversity information with such fine resolution on such a wide scale.

Visit the Natural Geography in Shore Areas website.