Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Habitat Mapping:

Survey report and classification of side scan sonar data from surveys HMPR-114-2004-02 and HMPR-116-2005-01

Steven S. Intelmann1, and Guy R. Cochrane2
1Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA
2Coastal and Marine Geology Program, USGS

Conservation
Survey report and classification of side scan sonar data from surveys HMPR-114-2004-02 and HMPR-116-2005-01 (pdf, 5.1M)
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) continues to invest significant resources into seafloor mapping activities along Washington's outer coast (Intelmann and Cochrane 2006; Intelmann et al. 2006; Intelmann 2006). Results from these annual mapping efforts offer a snapshot of current ground conditions, help to guide research and management activities, and provide a baseline for assessing the impacts of various threats to important habitat. During the months of August 2004 and May and July 2005, we used side scan sonar to image several regions of the sea floor in the northern OCNMS, and the data were mosaicked at 1-meter pixel resolution. Video from a towed camera sled, bathymetry data, sedimentary samples and side scan sonar mapping were integrated to describe geological and biological aspects of habitat. Polygon features were created and attributed with a hierarchical deep-water marine benthic classification scheme (Greene et al. 1999).

For three small areas that were mapped with both side scan sonar and multibeam echosounder, we made a comparison of output from the classified images indicating little difference in results between the two methods. With these considerations, backscatter derived from multibeam bathymetry is currently a cost-efficient and safe method for seabed imaging in the shallow (<30 meters) rocky waters of OCNMS. The image quality is sufficient for classification purposes, the associated depths provide further descriptive value and risks to gear are minimized. In shallow waters (<30 meters) which do not have a high incidence of dangerous rock pinnacles, a towed multi-beam side scan sonar could provide a better option for obtaining seafloor imagery due to the high rate of acquisition speed and high image quality, however the high probability of losing or damaging such a costly system when deployed as a towed configuration in the extremely rugose nearshore zones within OCNMS is a financially risky proposition.

The development of newer technologies such as intereferometric multibeam systems and bathymetric side scan systems could also provide great potential for mapping these nearshore rocky areas as they allow for high speed data acquisition, produce precisely geo-referenced side scan imagery to bathymetry, and do not experience the angular depth dependency associated with multibeam echosounders allowing larger range scales to be used in shallower water. As such, further investigation of these systems is needed to assess their efficiency and utility in these environments compared to traditional side scan sonar and multibeam bathymetry.

Keywords: Benthic, habitat mapping, sediment classification, side scan sonar, multibeam echosounder, textural analysis, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, essential fish habitat, groundtruthing

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