Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 225-237

First online:

Marine habitat mapping in support of Marine Protected Area management in a subarctic fjord: Gilbert Bay, Labrador, Canada

  • Alison CopelandAffiliated withDepartment of Conservation Services, Government of Bermuda
  • , Evan EdingerAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Memorial University of NewfoundlandDepartment of Biology, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • , Rodolphe DevillersAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland Email author 
  • , Trevor BellAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • , Philippe LeBlancAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • , Joe WroblewskiAffiliated withOcean Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland

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This paper presents an approach that allows production of benthic substrate and habitat maps in fjord environments. This approach is used to support the management of the Gilbert Bay Marine Protected Area (MPA) in southeastern Labrador, Atlantic Canada. Multibeam sonar-derived bathymetry, seabed slope, and acoustic reflectance (backscatter) were combined using supervised classification methods and GIS with ground-truthed benthic sampling in order to derive maps of the substrates and main benthic habitats. Six acoustically distinct substrate types were identified in the fjord, and three additional substrate types without a unique acoustic signature were recognized. Ordination by multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarity generalized these to four acoustically distinct habitat types. Greatest within-habitat (alpha) diversity was found in the coralline-algae encrusted gravel habitat. Greatest between-habitat (beta) diversity was found in the management Zones 1 and 2, which have the highest level of protection. The study confirmed that the zoning plan for the MPA, which was designed to protect spawning and juvenile fish habitat for a local genetically distinct population of Atlantic cod, afforded highest levels of protection to areas with highest habitat diversity.


Marine habitat mapping Alpha-diversity Beta-diversity GIS Atlantic cod Iceland scallop Marine protected area Multibeam Fjord