Benthic Habitat Mapping in Barnegat Bay with Topographic-Bathymetric Lidar Waveform Features


Barnegat Bay, a large, shallow estuary located along the New Jersey coast, was heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Scientists and coastal managers are interested in assessing the impacts of the storm on benthic habitats, including eelgrass (Zostera marina) habitat, which is often used as an indicator of the overall health of the estuary. In this study, we evaluate the ability to map benthic habitats and conduct Sandy-related change analysis using data from two new topographic-bathymetric lidar systems, with fundamentally different design characteristics than conventional bathymetric lidar systems. After straightforward preprocessing, features related to return waveform shape are used in an object-based image analysis (OBIA) software environment to extract five classes: 1) deeper water (relative to the laser extinction depth), 2) sand, 3) dense eelgrass, 4) sparse eelgrass, and 5) mixed macroalgae and sand. The accuracies of the resulting habitat maps are then assessed using reference data acquired by a field survey team. Results obtained to date are very promising and indicate the potential of new topographic-bathymetric lidar waveform data for a range of coastal science and management applications.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

European LiDAR Mapping Forum

Conference Date

December 8-10, 2014

Publisher Place

Amsterdam, North Holland, The Netherlands

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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