Survey report of NOAA Ship McArthur II cruises AR-04-04, AR-05-05 and AR-06-03:

Habitat classification of side scan sonar imagery in support of deep-sea coral/sponge explorations at the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Steven S. Intelmann1, Guy R. Cochrane2, C. Edward Bowlby1, Mary Sue Brancato1, and Jeffrey Hyland3
1Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA
2Coastal and Marine Geology Program, USGS
3National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA

Conservation
Survey report of NOAA Ship McArthur II cruises AR-04-04, AR-05-05 and AR-06-03: Habitat classification of side scan sonar imagery in support of deep-sea coral/sponge explorations at the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (pdf, 5.2M)
Habitat mapping and characterization has been defined as a high-priority management issue for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS), especially for poorly known deep-sea habitats that may be sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance. As a result, a team of scientists from OCNMS, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), and other partnering institutions initiated a series of surveys to assess the distribution of deep-sea coral/sponge assemblages within the sanctuary and to look for evidence of potential anthropogenic impacts in these critical habitats. Initial results indicated that remotely delineating areas of hard bottom substrate through acoustic sensing could be a useful tool to increase the efficiency and success of subsequent ROV-based surveys of the associated deep-sea fauna.

Accordingly, side scan sonar surveys were conducted in May 2004, June 2005, and April 2006 aboard the NOAA Ship McArthur II to: (1) obtain additional imagery of the seafloor for broader habitat-mapping coverage of sanctuary waters, and (2) help delineate suitable deep-sea coral/sponge habitat, in areas of both high and low commercial-fishing activities, to serve as sites for surveying-in more detail using an ROV on subsequent cruises. Several regions of the sea floor throughout the OCNMS were surveyed and mosaicked at 1-meter pixel resolution. Imagery from the side scan sonar mapping efforts was integrated with other complementary data from a towed camera sled, ROVs, sedimentary samples, and bathymetry records to describe geological and biological (where possible) aspects of habitat. Using a hierarchical deep-water marine benthic classification scheme (Greene et al. 1999), we created a preliminary map of various habitat polygon features for use in a geographical information system (GIS). This report provides a description of the mapping and groundtruthing efforts as well as results of the image classification procedure for each of the areas surveyed.

Keywords: Benthic, habitat mapping, sediment classification, side scan sonar, textural analysis, deep-sea coral, essential fish habitat, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

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