Benthic habitat maps are an important and essential means of providing marine resource assessments for coastal management and ecological analysis. There is an overlap between management and ecological analysis, the main difference is spatial scale and amount of detail, but of course they are closely related.
Seafloor mapping is critical to improve our understanding of ecosystems dynamics and relationships between biota and habitats. Without details of the near seafloor, local, state and federal resource managers are poorly equipped to make decisions about the effects of different activities on marine habitats. The emergence of remotely sensed acoustic technologies coupled with the ability to collect ground information with georeferenced towed camera systems now allow researchers to survey large seafloor areas and produce high resolution maps of topography, subsurface structures, and habitats maps of previously unexplored underwater regions.
Evaluating and monitoring marine ecosystem health depends on our ability to map underwater habitats and understand the linkages among invertebrate and faunal interactions and habitats to ensure protection of habitats important to each part of marine organism life cycles. This issue is closely linked to the need to protect biodiversity along our coasts. If biodiversity can be represented in habitat maps, managers will be more readily able to protect those areas important to maintaining a diverse, functioning ecosystem. Mapping in the marine environment is more complex than in the terrestrial environment due to lack of visibility which impedes the use of most satellite imagery, and expense of field data collection. There is an urgent need for development of practical modeling and mapping methods to produce maps for ecological investigation and natural resource managers.
Benthic habitat maps are are an important and essential means of providing marine resource assessments for coastal management and ecological analysis. The Benthic Habitat Mapping technical and case study sections of this toolkit contain details about the development of optimal methods and techniques regarding sampling designs, the use of survey measurement and sensing tools, efficient statistical approaches and rapid cost effective mapping that can be used for innovative ecological analyses that addresses the basic science and management needs in Australia's marine environment. The benthic habitat process that is carried out to produce qualitative / interpretive maps can be done in many different ways and the process is goverened by the resources available.
The final product of the benthic mapping process is the reduction of the seabed characterisations and classifications in to habitat maps. These can come in a number of different formats. For examples of Benthic Habitat Maps see Case Studies and GIS.
For more specific examples and details of a mapping/modelling project carried out by the Coastal CRC please go to the Recerche Archipelago case studie.
In addition for a further examples go to the University of Western Australia's website