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Seabed Habitat Mapping

Seabed Habitat Mapping.

With mountains and valleys, canyons and plains, and ridges and reefs – the seabed is as complex as the land. There are many different habitats in Marlborough’s coastal waters. These have been formed over eons by geological processes, and by the power of tidal forces scouring out deep channels and sculpting sediment waves.

Marine biodiversity is associated with different habitat types. To better manage human activities on marine ecosystems, Council needs a good understanding of where areas hosting high biodiversity are located. However, the extent and distribution of different habitats and the biodiversity they contain in our coastal waters are currently poorly known.

Council has a programme to map seabed habitats using state of the art multibeam echosounder technology.

Multibeam echo sounders produce a fan of acoustic beams or ‘sound waves’ directly downwards from the bottom of a boat. These beams reflect off the seafloor, enabling the surveyors to calculate the depth of the seafloor and scan and map the seafloor habitat in great detail.

The three dimensional habitat maps created will identify features such as reefs and canyons, which can then be targeted for sampling with underwater video and camera technology to build up a picture of the ecological conditions and species present. That is important visual information for Council and the community to make good management decisions.

In 2015, Council commissioned NIWA to map an extensive area of seabed off Northwest D’Urville.

In 2016, Council and Land Information New Zealand joined together to fund a survey by NIWA and Discovery Marine of Tōtaranui/Queen Charlotte Sound and Kura Te Au/Tory Channel. Both these projects will significantly increase of our knowledge of seabed habitats.

For more information, please contact Dr Steve Urlich, coastal scientist or 03 520 7560.  

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