Benthic mapping of the Bluefields Bay fish sanctuary, Jamaica

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för naturgeografi och ekosystemvetenskap

Abstract: Small island states, such as those in the Caribbean, are dependent on the nearshore marine ecosystem complex and its resources; the goods and services provided by seagrass and coral reef for example, are particularly indispensable to the tourism and fishing industries. In recognition of their valuable contributions and in an effort to promote sustainable use of marine resources, some nearshore areas have been designated as fish sanctuaries, as well as marine parks and protected areas. In order to effectively manage these coastal zones, a spatial basis is vital to understanding the ecological dynamics and ultimately inform management practices. However, the current extent of habitats within designated sanctuaries across Jamaica are currently unknown and owing to this, the Government of Jamaica is desirous of mapping the benthic features in these areas. Given the several habitat mapping methodologies that exist, it was deemed necessary to test the practicality of applying two remote sensing methods - optical and acoustic - at a pilot site in western Jamaica, the Bluefields Bay fish sanctuary. The optical remote sensing method involved a pixel-based supervised classification of two available multispectral images (WorldView-2 and GeoEye-1), whilst the acoustic method comprised a sonar survey using a BioSonics DT-X Portable Echosounder and subsequent indicator kriging interpolation in order to create continuous benthic surfaces. Image classification resulted in the mapping of three benthic classes, namely submerged vegetation, bare substrate and coral reef, with an overall map accuracy of 89.9% for WorldView-2 and 86.8% for GeoEye-1 imagery. These accuracies surpassed those of the acoustic classification method, which attained 76.6% accuracy for vegetation presence, and 53.5% for bottom substrate (silt, sand and coral reef/ hard bottom). Both approaches confirmed that the Bluefields Bay is dominated by submerged aquatic vegetation, with contrastingly smaller areas of bare sediment and coral reef patches. Additionally, the sonar revealed that silty substrate exists along the shoreline, whilst sand is found further offshore. Ultimately, the methods employed in this study were compared and although it was found that satellite image classification was perhaps the most cost-effective and well-suited for Jamaica given current available equipment and expertise, it is acknowledged that acoustic technology offers greater thematic detail required by a number of stakeholders and is capable of operating in turbid waters and cloud covered environments ill-suited for image classification. On the contrary, a major consideration for the acoustic classification process is the interpolation of processed data; this step gives rise to a number of potential limitations, such as those associated with the choice of interpolation algorithm, available software and expertise. The choice in mapping approach, as well as the survey design and processing steps is not an easy task; however the results of this study highlight the various benefits and shortcomings of implementing optical and acoustic classification approaches in Jamaica.

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