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Application of the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) to Deep-Sea Benthic Surveys in the Northeast Pacific: Lessons from Field Tests in 2015

Author(s): Bassett, R.D.; M. Finkbeiner; P.J. Etnoyer


Publication Type: NOAA Technical Memoranda

Journal Title: NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 228

Date of Publication: 2017

Reference Information: 62 pages

Abstract: A standard terminology for visual benthic surveys is useful and necessary for seafloor mapping, habitat classification, and habitat suitability modeling of the deep sea. The Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) is a comprehensive, standardized terminology published in 2012. The standard is well-developed but has not been tested extensively in the deep sea. NOAA has set a milestone to adopt recommended best practices and standards, such as CMECS, within NOAA's Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping Program, since 2013 (NOC 2013), so there is a timely need for guidance directed toward to the deep-sea research community about how to use this standard method. To this end, the project described in this report engaged ocean going field teams during three deep-sea benthic surveys in the Pacific Ocean in 2015, including telepresence-enabled cruises in Hawaii and Southern California. Post-cruise analyses processed and categorized images from these surveys. Thirty-two remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives and more than 6,400 still images were analyzed using a simple CMECS annotation. The primary outcome of the study was the discovery that CMECS geoform and water column components can be captured by field teams with little modification to standard procedures. Parameters such as depth, temperature, salinity, and oxygen are routinely collected by ROV and these can easily be converted to CMECS categories if minimum and maximum values are reported in dive summary tables and image annotations. The CMECS substrate component needs fine spatial resolution to be useful to seafloor characterization and modeling. Geological annotation of images should include induration and relief at a minimum to be useful for habitat suitability modeling. Sediment types, rock types, and primary and secondary relationships are useful for habitat characterization. Geological expertise was necessary for reliable habitat interpretation from images. Some inconsistencies were identified between CMECS and established regional regimes in the Pacific Ocean. For example, the entire California deep margin has very low oxygen levels and needs a finer categorization scheme than the Atlantic. The field tests in this study showed that CMECS can be useful and effective for deep-sea benthic surveys. CMECS helps to organize the deep-sea benthic community and represents a logical underpinning for a unified searchable geodatabase of deep-sea explorations at some point in the future.

Availability: Peter.Etnoyer@noaa.gov

Related Attachment: Download file (.pdf)

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