MPA Landscape Ecology

The project aims to test landscape ecology concepts over a range of spatial scales at these sites, utilizing coarser resolution ship-based acoustic data (Laurentian Channel) and very high-resolution AUV-based acoustic data (Eastport), for a range of conservation area sizes and locations (shallow vs deep, nearshore vs offshore) to quantify seafloor landscape patterns for understanding benthic biodiversity across spatial scales.

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Recent developments in acoustic survey techniques have revolutionized the way we are able to image, map and understand seafloor ecosystems. In turn, this has led to advances in seabed mapping strategies that allow the production of fine-scale thematic maps (e.g. generalized biophysical maps of the seafloor; species-specific habitat maps generated from species distribution modelling (SDM) methods) through the incorporation of seafloor biological/geological information from in situ sampling data. This approach therefore now yields the spatial information (i.e. ocean floor thematic maps) required for testing of landscape ecology concepts in ocean floor study, but we have yet to examine which of its component concepts are most relevant to the conservation objectives of MPAs. This project will focus on three conservation sites in Atlantic Canada, including two MPAs (Eastport, NL; St Annes Bank, NS) and one Area of Interest (AOI) (Laurentian Channel, NL). A variety of seafloor habitat maps are available at these sites from previously funded project work, along with benthic optical imaging, and infaunal grab sampling datasets. Ultimately, the project will aim to quantify seafloor landscape patterns at these sites to determine how these patterns influence benthic biodiversity across spatial scales, and thus investigate how this information can influence and guide design and selection of long-term monitoring stations and management strategies at each site.

Check out the underwater landscape story maps of the Laurentian Channel and the St. Anns Bank MPAs produced by Dr. Craig Brown and his team.

Project Deliverables / Achievements

  • Thematic maps depicting benthic characteristics (i.e. benthoscape maps, surficial sediment maps) of St. Anns Bank Marine Protected Area, Laurentian Channel AOI, and Eastport MPA and surrounding area is completed.

  • Data processing and statistical analysis toolbox for production of fine-scale seafloor map incorporating landscape metrics in progress.

  • Recommended seafloor monitoring strategies for the study sites based on comprehensive analysis of the datasets and the conservation objectives of the sites in progress.

  • Habitat maps to compute landscape ecology metrics and initial landscape ecology analyses to assess seafloor landscape patterns were completed.

  • New analytical frameworks for understanding benthic biodiversity patterns within the context of seafloor landscape structure and incorporating landscape ecology analyses into MPA design/planning is in progress.

  • A total of 50 video transects and 19 sediment samples were collected during the fieldwork in the Eastport MPS.

  • Existing and new ground-truthing data collected in the Eastport area were processed.

  • A review of landscape metrics is completed.

  • Sediment samples were processed to characterize sediment fractions.

  • Analysis of video data is in progress.

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St Anne's Bank

East Port

Laurentian Channel AOI