Acoustic and satellite remote sensing of shallow nearshore marine habitats in the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area




Reshitnyk, Luba Yvanka

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The ability to map nearshore habitat (i.e. submerged aquatic vegetation) is an integral component of marine conservation. The main goal of this thesis was to examine the ability of high resolution, multispectral satellite imagery and a single-beam acoustic ground discrimination system to map the location of marine habitats in Bag Harbour, found in the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve. To meet this goal, two objectives were addressed: (1) Using the QTC View V sing-beam acoustic ground discrimination system, identify which frequency (50 kHz or 200 kHz) is best suited for mapping marine habitat; (2) evaluate the ability to map nearshore marine habitat using WorldView-2 high resolution, multispectral satellite imagery and compare the results of marine habitat maps derived from the acoustic and satellite datasets. Ground-truth data for both acoustic and satellite data were collected via towed underwater video camera on June 3rd and 4th, 2012. Acoustic data (50 and 200 kHz) were collected on June 23rd and 24th, 2012, respectively. The results of this study are organized into two papers. The first paper focuses on objective 1 where the QTC View V single-beam acoustic ground discrimination system was used to map nearshore habitat at a site within the Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area using two survey frequencies – 50 kHz and 200 kHz. The results show that the 200 kHz data outperformed the 50 kHz data set in both thematic and spatial accuracy. The 200 kHz dataset was able to identify two species of submerged aquatic vegetation, eelgrass (Zostera marina) and a red algae (Chondrocanthus exasperatus) while the 50 kHz dataset was only able to detect the distribution of eelgrass. The best overall accuracy achieved with the 200 kHz dataset was 86% for a habitat map with three classes (dense eelgrass, dense red algae and unvegetated substrate) compared to the 50 kHz habitat classification with two classes (dense eelgrass and unvegetated substrate) that had an overall accuracy of 70%. Neither dataset was capable if discerning the distribution of green algae (Ulva spp.) or brown algae (Fucus spp.), also present at the site. The second paper examines the benthic habitat maps created using WorldView-2 satellite imagery and the QTC View V single-beam acoustic ground discrimination system (AGDS) at 200 kHz (objective 2). Optical and acoustic remote sensing technologies both present unique capabilities of mapping nearshore habitat. Acoustic systems are able to map habitat in subtidal regions outside of the range of optical sensors while optical sensors such as WorldView-2 provide higher spatial and spectral resolution. The results of this study found that the WorldView-2 achieved the highest overall accuracy (75%) for mapping shallow (<3 m) benthic classes (green algae, brown algae, eelgrass and unvegetated substrate). The 200 kHz data were found to perform best in deeper (>3 m) regions and were able to detect the distribution of eelgrass, red algae and unvegetated substrate. A final habitat map was produced composed of these outputs to create a final, comprehensive habitat map of Bag Harbour. These results highlight the benefits and limitations of each remote sensing technology from a conservation management perspective. The main benefits of the WorldView-2 imagery stem from the high resolution (2 x 2 m) pixel resolution, with a single image covering many kilometers of coastline, and ability to discern habitats in the intertidal region that were undetectable by AGDS. However, the main limitation of this technology is the ability to acquire imagery under ideal conditions (low tide and calm seas). In contrast, the QTC View V system requires more hours spent collecting acoustic data in the field, is limited in the number of habitats it is able to detect and creates maps based on interpolated point data (compared to the continuous raster data of the WorldView-2 imagery). If, however, the objectives of the conservation management to create high resolution benthic habitat maps of subtidal habitats (e.g. eelgrass and benthic red algae) at a handful of sites (in contrast to continuous coastal coverage), the QTC View V system is more suitable. Whichever system is used ground-truth data are required to train and validate each dataset.



remote sensing, nearshore habitats, eelgrass, WorldView-2, QTCView, Gwaii Haanas