The National Marine Sanctuary System requires seabed and habitat maps to serve as a basis for managing sanctuary resources and for conducting research. NOAA, the agency that manages the sanctuaries, and the USGS have conducted mapping projects in three sanctuaries (Stellwagen Bank NMS, Flower Garden Banks NMS, and Channel Islands NMS) with an emphasis on collaboration of geologists and biologists from the two agencies and from academic institutions. Mapping of seabed habitats is a developing field that requires the integration of geologic and biologic studies and the use of swath imaging techniques such as multibeam and sidescan sonar. Major products of swath mapping are shaded-relief topographic imagery which shows seabed features in great detail, and backscatter imagery which provides an indication of the types of materials that constitute the seabed. Sea floor images provide an excellent basis for conducting the groundtruthing studies (using video, photo, and sampling techniques) that are required to collect the data necessary for making meaningful interpretative maps of the seabed. The compilation of interpretative maps showing seabed environments and habitats also requires the development of a sea floor classification system that will be a basis for comparing, managing, and researching characteristics areas of the seabed. Seabed maps of the sanctuaries are proving useful for management and research decisions that address commercial and recreational fishing, habitat disturbance, engineering projects, tourism, and cultural resources.
Additional publication details
Mapping the seabed and habitats in National Marine Sanctuaries- Examples from the East, Gulf and West Coasts