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Multisource multibeam backscatter data: developing a strategy for the production of benthic habitat maps using semi-automated seafloor classification methods

Abstract

The establishment of multibeam echosounders (MBES) as a mainstream tool in ocean mapping has facilitated integrative approaches towards nautical charting, benthic habitat mapping, and seafloor geotechnical surveys. The bathymetric and backscatter information generated by MBES enables marine scientists to present highly accurate bathymetric data with a spatial resolution closely matching that of terrestrial mapping, and can generate customized thematic seafloor maps to meet multiple ocean management needs. However, when a variety of MBES systems are used, the creation of objective habitat maps can be hindered by the lack of backscatter calibration, due for example, to system-specific settings, yielding relative rather than absolute values. Here, we describe an approach using object-based image analysis to combine 4 non-overlapping and uncalibrated (backscatter) MBES coverages to form a seamless habitat map on St. Anns Bank (Atlantic Canada), a marine protected area hosting a diversity of benthic habitats. The benthoscape map was produced by analysing each coverage independently with supervised classification (k-nearest neighbor) of image-objects based on a common suite of 7 benthoscapes (determined with 4214 ground-truthing photographs at 61 stations, and characterized with backscatter, bathymetry, and bathymetric position index). Manual re-classification based on uncertainty in membership values to individual classes—especially at the boundaries between coverages—was used to build the final benthoscape map. Given the costs and scarcity of MBES surveys in offshore marine ecosystems—particularly in large ecosystems in need of adequate conservation strategies, such as in Canadian waters—developing approaches to synthesize multiple datasets to meet management needs is warranted.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Derek Fenton, Tanya Koropatnick and other colleagues in the Oceans and Coastal Management Division of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada (DFO) at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography for support and suggestions to this research project. Financial support for the research was through DFO Academic Research Contribution Program entitled Developing Methods for Benthic Habitat Mapping of MPAs in Atlantic Canada (project agreement #F5299-140076), and the NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network and its partners: Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and INREST (representing the Port of Sept-Îles and City of Sept-Îles; NETGP 468437-14, Project 1.2.5).

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Correspondence to Myriam Lacharité.

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Lacharité, M., Brown, C.J. & Gazzola, V. Multisource multibeam backscatter data: developing a strategy for the production of benthic habitat maps using semi-automated seafloor classification methods. Mar Geophys Res 39, 307–322 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11001-017-9331-6

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Keywords

  • Multibeam echosounder
  • Backscatter
  • Habitat mapping
  • Benthoscape
  • Atlantic Canada