Seafloor mapping to support conservation planning in an ecologically unique fjord in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Abstract

As human impacts continue to threaten coastal habitats and ecosystems, marine benthic habitat and substrate mapping has become a key component of many conservation and management initiatives. Understanding the composition and extent of marine habitats can inform marine protected area (MPA) planning and monitoring, help identify vulnerable or rare habitats and support fisheries management. To support conservation planning in Eastern Canada, we mapped the seafloor of Newman Sound, identifying the benthoscape classes (i.e. discrete biophysical seafloor classes) of this ecologically diverse and unique fjord in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). Mapping was achieved using multibeam echosounder (MBES) data collected using multiple platforms, seafloor videos and an unsupervised pixel-based classification method. Seven benthoscape classes were identified within the extent of the MBES coverages. Multivariate statistical analyses indicate that two benthoscape classes - mixed boulder and mud - support distinct epifaunal communities, and also capture the changes in benthic community composition between hard/shallow substrates and soft/deep substrates. Our results illustrate how benthoscape maps can inform marine spatial planning and conservation in the Newman Sound region, support monitoring and also calls for adaptive management of the adjacent Eastport MPA.

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Acknowledgments

This research is sponsored by the NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network and its Partners: Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and INREST (representing the Port of Sept-Îles and City of Sept-Îles). We thank Dr. Trevor Bell for contributing to the multibeam data collection. We also thank Bonnell Squire and Sandy Turner of Happy Adventure, NL and Jackie Saturno for support during collection of the 2016 ground truthing data set. This research is dedicated to the memory of Callum Mireault – a dear friend, marine scientist and colleague who is greatly missed.

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Correspondence to Beatrice Proudfoot.

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Proudfoot, B., Devillers, R., Brown, C.J. et al. Seafloor mapping to support conservation planning in an ecologically unique fjord in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. J Coast Conserv 24, 36 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11852-020-00746-8

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Keywords

  • Seabed mapping
  • Multibeam sonar
  • Backscatter
  • Benthic habitat
  • Marine protected area
  • Newman Sound