Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Datasets

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Seagrass, reef fisheries, habitat mapping, recreational fisheries models, fisheries management


The continental shelf off Florida’s west coast is a mosaic of fish habitats including seagrass beds and carbonate reef outcroppings (hard bottom) classified by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as Essential Fish Habitat. Habitat maps and community baseline data, however, are nonexistent for a majority of the region. This collaborative effort between Nova Southeastern University, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NMFS and other scientists will characterize and map continental shelf seagrass and hard bottom habitats in nearshore areas fished by many recreational fishermen. Objectives include: 1) map hard bottom and seagrass beds using various data types including sonar and satellite imagery; 2) Conduct underwater remote and SCUBA diver surveys to validate the map and associate community information to habitat classifications; 3) Compare and integrate sonar and satellite maps; and 4) Develop recommendations as to how satellite data can best be utilized to improve survey scope and efficiency. Outputs provide the first hard bottom habitat map and baseline community characterization for 1,600 square kilometers of the West Florida continental shelf adjacent to Tampa Bay. Data were collected from December 2011 to June 2016.



Using a combination of data types to delineate habitats is a more effective means of creating maps where conditions differ in the area of interest. On Florida’s east coast from Miami-Dade through Martin counties, accurate mapping has been conducted using a combination of aerial photography, LiDAR bathymetry, side-scan bathymetry, acoustic ground discrimination, and subbottom profiling. Visual interpretation of various data types has provided accurate mapping results of 955 km² shallow (m) seafloor where quantitative community data support the delineations. Here we use similar techniques using all available data to create benthic habitat maps along West Florida’s Gulf coast. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute provided WorldView-2 (WV2) and QuickBird (QB) source imagery for visual interpretation using similar methods as the current Florida Reef Tract maps. The best imagery for each part of the scene was used for the interpretation with other scenes used as a reference. Study area covers depths to 15 m and range as far as 45 km offshore.

File Format: cpg, dbf, lyr, prj, sbn, sbx, shp, shx, xml

DOI: 10.7266/N7MC8XFT

Additional Comments

This file originally appeared in the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative's (GoMRI) Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC):