Marine Benthic Habitat Classification: What's Best for Alaska?

Marine Benthic Habitat Classification: What's Best for Alaska?

H. Gary Greene, Victoria O'Connell, Cleo K. Brylinsky, and Jennifer R. Reynolds

Marine Benthic Habitat Classification: What's Best for Alaska?This is part of Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska
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Description

Many different types of habitat classification schemes have been developed for the coastal and marine environments. These schemes range from site- or topic-specific types to broad approaches that cover large geographic regions. However, comparison of habitat types from one study or from one region to another is generally not possible because of the incompatibilities of these schemes. For example, disparate types of classification schemes have been developed for shallow water, using "top-down" classification tied to the biology of the intertidal and photic zones, and for deep water, using "bottom-up" classification tied to the geologic substrate. Nevertheless, today with the intense effort of seafloor mapping and the support of geographic information systems (GIS), synthesis of marine benthic habitat classification is necessary if habitats are to be evaluated on a regional basis. Of critical importance to a unified scheme for mapping habitat types is flexibility within the scheme that enables the user to mix and match or add and subtract attribute types to produce a map that specifically addresses his/her needs.

We briefly list the various classification schemes in use today to map deepwater habitats and focus on a scheme we have used to map potential marine benthic habitats in Alaska waters and elsewhere. The mapping scheme used in Alaska is based on substrate types and geomorphology. The maps are based on a suite of geophysical data sets including multibeam echosounder (MBES) bathymetry and backscatter, sidescan sonar, submersible or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) observations and video, and sediment sample data. We describe the advantages of this scheme here and outline the rationale for continuing to use such a scheme in Alaska.

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