Acoustic Seafloor Mapping

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office performs habitat assessments throughout a range of Bay habitats including historic oyster bottom and sturgeon spawing grounds. The approach couples acoustic seafloor mapping of benthic habitats with biological assessments. Resulting seafloor mapping products are based on high-resolution spatial datasets of bathymetry and backscatter amplitudes. Underwater video and sediment grab samples ground-truth these data. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office began mapping areas of the Bay seafloor in 2004 to support native oyster restoration projects and this remains the primary focus of the Office's habitat assessment effort. The Office's earliest surveys combined side-scan sonar and single-beam acoustic seabed classification to describe the distribution and quality of oyster shell habitats for particular sites. This information, combined with results from NOAA monitoring programs, furthered the understanding of restoration techniques and activities to date.


In 2009, a side-scan sonar bathymetric system and underwater video were added to the mapping capabilities. The sonar added high-resolution bathymetry while improving the georeferencing of side-scan sonar contacts. Survey efforts continue to support native oyster restoration mapping in Maryland and Virginia, and have grown to support work both inside and outside of the Chesapeake region, including sturgeon habitat mapping.

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