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Special Sessions at AAG 2009 - Marine Geomorphology

Marine Geomorphology and Mapping for an Ecosystem-Based Management Approach to Marine Reserve Design and Planning

Special Organized Sessions I, and II, plus Discussion Panel


Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Las Vegas Convention Center, North Hall N119

  • co-organized by D. Wright (Oregon State) and W. Heyman (Texas A&M)
  • co-sponsored by the Coastal and Marine, Geographic Information Science and Systems, and Biogeography Specialty Groups

These sessions were a follow-up to the highly successful AAG sessions of 2008 entitled Marine Geomorphology as a Determinant for Essential Life Habitat: An Ecosystem Management Approach to Planning for Marine Reserve Networks. In 2009 we continued to present and critically examine the growing body of data suggesting that the underlying geology and geomorphology of marine environments dictates the location of critical life habitat for a variety marine species. The broad implications of these findings suggest that geomorphology might be used as a proxy for (or at least help to identify) critical life habitat for marine species, and thus serve to advance the application of ecosystem-based management (EBM) to the design of marine reserve networks. Our goal once again was to bring together a group of scholars working on this and related issues, and to further advance collaboration between scientists and marine managers towards more efficient conservation and management of marine systems.

Presentations were focused on:
- essential benthic habitat and geomorphology
- marine GIS and/or remote sensing for the purposes of integrating geomorphology and biology, including the development and validation of seafloor/seabed classification schemes
- applications for marine reserve network design

Marine Geomorphology I, 1:00-2:40 p.m.

Session Chair: Will Heyman, Texas A&M

Presenter: Shin Kobara, Texas A&M, Three-dimensional analysis of reef fish spawning aggregation sites in Belize and the Cayman Islands
Presentation (pdf, 14.2 Mb)

    Groupers and snappers are well known to breed in aggregations that occur at specific places and times of year. These “spawning aggregations” are vulnerable to over-fishing and many spawning aggregations have declined or been destroyed throughout the Caribbean. Conservation methods include protected areas, monitoring strategies, and management plans that can all be informed by physical studies of spawning sites. Nonetheless, no previous study has described and compared the physical characteristics of spawning habitats among several countries. We collected the bottom depth information of nearly all known grouper spawning aggregation sites in Belize, the Cayman Islands, and Puerto Rico using a Lowrance 50/200 kHz single-beam sonar with an integrated GPS, and available NOAA multi-beam sonar data. We found that the geomorphometric characteristics of these sites could be generalized to occur along shelf edges in more than 15 m water depth at reef promontories proximate to deep water. Based on two-dimensional shape information from Belize and Cayman Island sites, and satellite imagery for Los Roques Archipelago National Park, Venezuela, we identified sites with similar shape and predicted the occurrence of spawning aggregation sites. Four months of in-situ observation revealed possible aggregations but not spawning. Reanalyzing the geomorphometirics of the predicted sites showed differences in the vertical dimension. The predicted sites were not close to deep water and the shelf breaks occurred in water less than 10 m. We conclude that while horizontal shape alone is insufficient, analysis of three-dimensional morphometrics may allow successful prediction of reef fish spawning aggregation sites.

Presenter: Will Heyman, Texas A&M, Four-dimensional resource partitioning at a multi-species reef fish spawning aggregation: Implications for fisheries management
Presentation (pdf, 2.6 Mb)

    Because of the diversity in tropical marine areas, multi-species fisheries are common.  They present complex challenges for managers.  Exploitation of these fisheries often involves serial species depletion starting with highly-valued, large-bodied individuals that are high on the trophic pyramid.  Most of the exploited reef fish species aggregate to spawn in specific times and locations and they are highly vulnerable to exploitation.  Six years of observational data using underwater visual census techniques and video documentation have illustrated that Gladden Spit, a reef promontory spawning aggregation site in Belize, is used by 17 reef fish species from nine different families.  Each species occupies a particular area (lat, long, and depth) of the reef promontory for their spawning aggregations, to which they faithfully return at specific times according to lunar and seasonal cues.  The spatial and temporal resource partitioning of this reef promontory will be described.
         Conservationists have suggested that fishing be restricted on spawning areas during the spawning period for particularly vulnerable species, e.g. Nassau grouper during January - March.  By extension, however, protecting multiple species will involve a complex suite of area- and time-based closed seasons for a variety of species.  Based on the data collected for Gladden Spit, year-round closure of this and other multi-species spawning aggregation sites represents a viable and relatively simple way to support the conservation of a multi-species fishery.

Presenter: Haibin Su, Texas A&M, Object-oriented image classification for benthic habitats using multispectral Quickbird data
Presentation (pdf, 21.3 Mb)

    The Caribbean region has abundant coastal and marine resources, including coral reefs. Unfortunately, they are being destroyed at an alarming rate primarily by human activities. There is a critical need to monitor the conditions of the corals by developing baseline and time series habitat maps. Remote sensing has been proved to be effective tool for mapping coral reef habitats. In previous studies, supervised and unsupervised methods have been used for image classification, in which only spectral information is utilized. In this study, we incorporate texture information for image segmentation and object oriented method is introduced for habitat classification. The objective-oriented method is applied to a high resolution multispectral Quickbird image over North Sound of Antigua. The habitat classification result is compared with those produced from traditional methods. Habitat changes over past 25 years have also been examined by comparing with a historic habitat map produced from manual interpretation of air photo acquired in 1980s.

Presenter: Lisa Wedding, University of Hawaii, Integrating geomorphological, biological, and human dimension information in GIS to aid in the design of effective deep sea marine protected areas
Presentation (pdf, 9.6 Mb)

    Geomorphologic, oceanographic, biological, and human dimension information were incorporated into a Geographical Information System (GIS) database to determine optimal locations for Preservation Reference Areas (PRAs) associated with mining in the abyssal Pacific region. Principles of ecosystem management were applied within this geospatial framework to inform science-based recommendation to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for a system of PRAs to safeguard biodiversity and ecosystem function in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone Fracture Zone targeted for manganese nodule mining. Recommendations were created based on spatial analyses and expert opinion, and concluded that representative PRAs should be placed in each of nine sub regions of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which were defined by productivity gradients and faunal turnover. GIS analysis allowed us to optimize PRA recommended locations so as to protect as many seamounts within a subregion as possible, and to avoid or minimize overlap with existing mining exploration and reserved claim areas.

Presenter: Fernando Tempera, University of the Azores, PORTUGAL, Getting a wider picture: MPA design using multiple conservation features
Presentation (pdf, 7.2 Mb)

    Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), either aimed at biodiversity conservation or fisheries management, should ideally provide robust protection to core biological populations within their boundaries. However, practical efforts to design marine reserves for multi-species management in the scope of ecosystem-based management approaches are still scarce.
         Integrated studies have been conducted around Faial island (Azores, NE Atlantic) to support the definition of MPA zoning schemes, refinement of existing MPA limits and designation of new MPAs. Research has so far included: (i) mapping the seafloor with multibeam and extracting geomorphologic layers such as depth, bottom type, slope, rugosity and a bathymetric position classification; (ii) creating average fields for exposure to swell and currents, sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a (iii) developing statistical models of the distribution of infralittoral macroalgae assemblages by relating data from benthic surveys with major environmental variables; (iv) developing spatially-explicit abundance models for different fish species using fish visual census data; (v) study scales of spatial behavior for a suite of commercially-exploited coastal fishes using acoustic underwater telemetry.
         The current presentation brings together this suite of data and characterizes the distinct spatial behavior of the fish while investigating their relationships with benthic habitats in an effort to identify essential fish habitats at an island scale.
    We discuss the possibility of using this information to feed spatially-explicit decision-support packages to design a network of coastal MPAs that protects representative biotopes, provides refuge for significant stocks of commercially-exploited fish and is acceptable by stakeholders and decision makers.

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Marine Geomorphology II, 3:10-4:50 p.m.

Session Chair: Dawn Wright, Oregon State

Presenter: Markus Diesing, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK, How can we predict the occurrence of rocky reefs?
Presentation (pdf, 1.5 Mb)

    Rocky reefs are among the marine habitats listed in the European Union Habitats Directive, therefore special efforts need to be undertaken for their conservation. It is the aim of the Habitats Directive to protect a certain percentage of representative habitats through a network of Special Areas of Conservation. The knowledge regarding the location, extent and character of rocky reefs on the United Kingdom continental shelf is however limited, yet essential to provide a thorough database for the nomination of protected areas. Here we attempt to establish a relationship between modelled wave and tide-induced bed-stress and occurrence of rocky reef to tackle this problem.
         Starting from the observation that a recently discovered area of rocky reef in the English Channel is situated in a bedload parting zone, we hypothesise that high bed-shear stress and divergent transport patterns are responsible for non-sedimentation and hence the outcrop of rock at the seabed. A comparison of the location of bedload parting zones with mapped seabed sediments shows that several exhibit bedrock at the seabed, e.g. in the Bristol Channel, the Pentland Firth (both pre-Quaternary rock) and St. Georges Channel (Quaternary till). Bedrock was also mapped along the coasts of Southwest England and Wales and off the Outer Hebrides. Here, the seabed is kept sediment-free by high wave-induced shear stresses caused by long swell arriving from the open Atlantic. Taking into consideration additional information (e.g. the nature of the bedrock) it should be possible to narrow down areas of high likelihood of rocky reef occurrence.

Presenter: Cristina Carollo, Florida Institute of Oceanography, Gulf G.A.M.E. (GEOSPATIAL ASSESSMENT OF MARINE ECOSYSTEMS) - Data discovery
Presentation (pdf, 8.3 Mb)

    The aim of the project is to develop an inventory of habitat-related information within the Gulf of Mexico. The project supports the "Gulf of Mexico Alliance Governors' Action Plan, Identification and Characterization of Gulf Habitats" priority issue. Gulf GAME provides database infrastructure "to establish a baseline information and mapping system" to inform resource management decisions. The main task is the identification and assessment of "priority coastal, estuarine, nearshore and offshore Gulf habitats". Information gaps are identified and footprint maps produced; the initial focus being on seagrass beds, recognized by EPA as being a critical concern. Updated GIS maps derived from a spatially organized database allow rapid access to the information needed to enhance the understanding and conservation of habitats and associated marine resources. By providing GIS data layers to illustrate the current spatial extent of seagrass beds, oyster reefs, coral reefs, and other benthic or deep-sea habitats as well as those associated with the water-column, managers will be able to investigate loss or degradation of these habitats, protect and/or conserve them, and help maintain the ecological integrity of coastal areas in the Gulf. Online tools were deployed to submit and query information of interest; a map-viewer is under development. The project promotes the sharing of information, which reduces duplicative efforts while maximizing the effectiveness of limited resources, to investigate and conserve Gulf habitats. It also serves as a foundation to develop a spatial framework for ecosystem-based management associated with regulatory and planning programs and areas of government coordination.

Presenter: Will McClintock, UCSB, MarineMap - Participatory marine protected area design using a web-based open source tool
Presentation (pdf, 1.9 Mb) | Demo

    MarineMap is a consortium of institutions, including the University of California Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, Ecotrust, and Farallon Geographics, who are thinking about how to deliver geospatial services to marine protected area (MPA) planning processes. California’s Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPAI) is one such planning process currently working toward establishing a network of MPAs for the entire state of California. The MLPAI is a stakeholder driven process and since 2005 MarineMap has supported the process by developing several web-based decision support tools for stakeholders to visualize and analyze geospatial information within California state waters. In 2008, MarineMap developed a new web-based decision support tool for use by MLPAI South Coast Study Region stakeholders. The tool allows stakeholders to (a) visualize spatially explicit biological, physical, and socioeconomic data layers; (b) draw prospective MPA boundaries and attribute them with information pertaining to the criteria outlined in the MPA submission process; (c) assemble prospective MPA boundaries into arrays; (d) share MPA boundaries and arrays with other stakeholders; (e) evaluate MPAs based on MLPAI Science Advisory Team guidelines, such as size and spacing, habitat representation and replication, and economic impacts; and (f) share results with other stakeholders in a place-based discussion forum. Based on Open Source technologies, the MarineMap decision support tool is well documented, freely distributed and modifiable for any area-based planning effort. We will demonstrate the major features of the web-based decision support tool generally and will also illustrate its specific application to the MLPAI South Coast Study Region process.

Presenter: James Myers , Rutgers, Integrating community use of fisheries into marine ecosystem-based management
Presentation (pdf, 5.9 Mb)

    One of the main goals of ecosystem based management is to adequately consider human use of resources in planning and management activities. This includes accounting for the impact of management activities on the communities dependent on those resources. Because marine ecosystem based management is spatially explicit, it is vital to know where specific communities use marine resources. This information has not previously been developed in a systematic and comprehensive way. Working with data from the Gulf of Maine supplied by commercial fishermen to the National Marine Fisheries Service, a methodology was developed to map resource use by specific fishing communities. These communities were defined in several ways, including by home ports and gear types. The resultant data sets map areas based on the intensity of use as measured by fisherman days. The potential for this data to aid in the integration of community resource use into marine ecosystem based management will be explored, with a concentration on how this data can be integrated into existing tools used for planning and implementing management activities.

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Marine Geomorphology Small Group Discussion, 5:20-6:15 p.m.
Facilitated by Will Heyman, Texas A&M and Dawn Wright, Oregon State

Gulf of Mexico bathymetry compilation

SEA-GIS listserv

Other meetings and parallel communities that we discussed included:
- GeoHab - Trondheim, Norway, 5-8 May 2009
- International Marine Conservation Congress, Washington, DC, 19-24 May 2009
- AAG, 14-18 April 2010, Washington, DC and then in Seattle in 2011
- Coastal GeoTools, next held in 2011 in Myrtle Beach, SC

We could also invite our colleagues in these parallel communities to join with us in a special marine geomorphology/habitat/conservation session at the next AAAS, which will be held in February 2010 in San Diego or at AAAS in 2011. AAAS is a very high profile meeting with lots of media attention. Session proposals are due by April 28th. Please let me know if any of you would be interested in pursuing this.

International Coastal Atlas Network (ICAN), which Cristina may be particularly interested in with the Gulf Coast digital library, tools, and portal that she is involved in. Our next major workshop will be in Trieste, Italy, 16-20 November 2009.

Additional papers:
Dunn, D.C. and Halpin, P.N. (2009). Rugosity-based regional modeling of hard-bottom habitat. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 377: 1-11, doi:10.3354/meps07839

Borruso, G. (2008). Network density estimation: A GIS approach for analysing point patterns in a network space. Transactions in GIS, 12(3): 377-402.

Simon Pitmann paper

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Gulf of Maine Habitat Classification Workshop: Mapping for Decision Making (pdf of January 2009 proceedings)
CMECS (Coastal Marine Ecological Classification Standard) Documentation (pdf) and Classification Table (xls; thanks to Drew Carey for the table)

EUNIS Biodiversity Database, including seabed habitat classifications for Europe

Mapping the Seafloor for Habitat Characterization (the GEOHAB Book, edited by Todd and Green, 2008)

Sappington et al., 2007, on Quantifying Landscape Ruggedness (alternative rugosity calculation, pdf - thanks to Dan Sampson)
Sappington, J.M., Longshore, K.M., Thompson. D.B., 2007, Quantifying landscape ruggedness for animal habitat analysis: A case study using bighorn sheep in the Mojave Desert. J. of Wildlife Management, 71(5): 1419-1427.

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