The seabed provides habitat for a diverse marine life having commercial, recreational, and intrinsic value. The habitat value of the seabed is largely a function of the geological structure and related geological, biological, oceanologic, and geochemical processes. Of equal importance, the nation‘s submerged lands contain energy and mineral resources and are utilized for the siting of offshore infrastructure and waste disposal. Seabed character and processes influence the safety and viability of offshore operations. Seabed and subseabed characterization is a prerequisite for the assessment, protection, and utilization of both living and non-living marine resources. A comprehensive program to characterize and understand the nation‘s submerged lands requires scientific expertise in the fields of geology, biology, hydrography, and oceanography.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has long experience as the Federal agency charged with conducting geologic research and mapping in both coastal and offshore regions. The USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program (CMGP) leads the nation in expertise related to characterization of seabed and subseabed geology, geological processes, seabed dynamics, and (in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and international partners) habitat geoscience. Numerous USGS studies show that sea-floor geology and processes determine the character and distribution of biological habitats, control coastal evolution, influence the coastal response to storm events and human alterations, and determine the occurrence and concentration of natural resources.