Benthic Habitat Mapping and Assessment in the Wilmington-East Wind Energy Call Area.
Author(s): Taylor, J. Christopher, Avery B. Paxton, Christine M. Voss, Benjamin W. Sumners, Christine A. Buckel, Jenny L. Vander Pluym, Erik E. Ebert, T. Shay Viehman, Stephen R. Fegley, Emily A. Pickering, Alyssa M. Adler Christopher Freeman, and Charles H. Peterson.
NCCOS Center: CCFHR
Center Team: Beaufort
Publication Type: NOAA Technical Memoranda
Journal Title: NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS
Date of Publication: 2016
Reference Information: 196:
Keywords: CCFHR, NOAA Oceans, Habitat, Habitat mapping, Benthic habitats, North Carolina
Abstract: The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for oversight and management of the
development of energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). In 2012, BOEM identified
three Wind Energy Call Areas and later defined Wind Energy Areas on the OCS of North Carolina.
Presently, sufficient uncertainty exists regarding cumulative impacts to ecosystem services such as
essential fish habitat and maritime cultural resources as a result of the construction or operation
of offshore energy facilities to merit preliminary studies. From rocky outcrops to shipwrecks,
hardbottom habitats serve as essential fish habitat for reef fisheries off of North Carolina and
along the southeast OCS. This project accomplished the primary objective of describing and
delineating rocky outcrops, within the Wilmington-East Call Area. The delineation of rocky outcrops and artificial hardbottom habitats guided an intensive diver visual assessment characterizing the benthic and fish communities, the seasonal changes in communities, and influences of sand and sediment movement around hardbottom habitats. This report is the result of a collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences and NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Key findings are:
Delineation of hardbottom habitats and shipwrecks
• We provide the first complete coverage by hydrographic sidescan and multibeam sonar of the
Wilmington-East Call Area. These GIS products show a varied seafloor interpreted as sand shoals,
pavement, rocky outcrops, ledges, and shipwrecks. The pattern of seafloor sediments is consistent
with the geological framework of Long Bay and nearby Frying Pan Shoals.
• The distribution of rocky outcrops is clustered in patches in discrete regions of the study
area. The distribution and clusters of notable outcrops appears to conform to areas of fishing uses
previously identified by stakeholders.
• While clusters and isolated hardbottom features are present in the Wind Energy Area, large
clusters of delineated rocky outcrops occur in the southern and eastern regions of the study area,
outside of the Wilmington-East Wind Energy Area, which defines the OCS blocks that may be available
for wind energy lease and development.
• Five shipwrecks have been confirmed with their position accuracy improved. Two potential new
shipwrecks were found within the study area.
Benthic habitats and fish communities on hardbottom in the study area
• The community composition and physical structure formed by invertebrates and macroalgae in the
study area are diverse and in some ways distinct from those seen in neighboring Onslow Bay.
• The fish community composition is similar to that seen in neighboring Onslow Bay.
• Complex, high relief hardbottom and the associated benthic communities support higher numbers
of species and biomass of
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