Utilizing New Multibeam Sonar Datasets to Map Potential Locations of Sensitive Benthic Habitats in the U.S. Atlantic Extended Continental Shelf


Recently completed multibeam sonar datasets of the U.S. Atlantic Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) area provide bathymetry and acoustic backscatter data that can be utilized in combination with other oceanographic data to help identify Habitats of Particular Concern (HAPCs), such as deepwater corals. Multibeam sonar data was collected by the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC) on four different cruises between 2004-2012, and by multiple cruises of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer between 2011-2013. These two new multibeam sonar datasets provide a historic new level of detail to our understanding of the Northwest Atlantic seafloor from Florida to the Canadian maritime boundary and from the edge of the continental shelf to the deep ocean. CCOM/JHC has embarked on a research effort to evaluate ways in which to use the new multibeam data sets from the Atlantic Margin, along with other existing ancillary datasets, to generate marine ecological classification maps and potential habitat prediction maps useful for supporting Ecosystem-Based Management. The initial component of this work involves processing the data using QPS Fledermaus and ESRI ArcGIS software to derive sediment classification predictions and terrain descriptors. Substrate characterization and thematic classifications derived using the “GEOCODER” code from CCOM/JHC are used in combination with seafloor groundtruth data and oceanographic model output to identify potential habitat areas. Bathymetry and backscatter datasets collected with different sonar systems of varying resolution are compared to examine differences in interpreted properties of seafloor substrates within areas of overlapping hydrographic surveys. Results of this work are intended to substantially improve predictive models of potential coldwater coral distribution in the Atlantic ECS area. Future phases of this research effort will apply NOAA’s Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) to the U.S. Atlantic ECS area.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

9-13 December, 2013

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding