- 1.Mapping of seabed habitats is increasingly being used to identify the distribution and structure of marine ecosystems and as surrogate measures of biodiversity for marine protected area (MPA) planning. In this study, the distribution of seabed habitats to the 3 nmi limit around the Kent Group of islands, south-eastern Australia were mapped using video ground-truthed single-beam acoustics at the mesoscale level (10 m to 1 km) as part of an MPA planning process.
- 2.Six distinct seabed habitat types (continuous reef, patchy reef, sand, hard sand, sparse sponge, and seagrass) were identified based primarily on visual differences in the first and second echo and a further four (low, medium and high profile reef, and sand hills) on variations in seabed profile identified in the echogram. Extensive acoustic and video transects allowed an estimate of the broad-scale spatial distribution of seabed habitats defined at several hierarchical levels and provided information on the cover of the dominant benthic species or assemblages.
- 3.The island group supports a range of consolidated habitats, including rocky reefs of varying profile dominated by the macroalgae Phyllospora comosa and Ecklonia radiata in depths down to around 45 m, adjacent to deeper sponge-dominated reefs containing encrusting, erect and branching forms. Unconsolidated habitats occurred broadly through the island group, with the offshore region dominated by hard sand (sand with scallop shells and/or shell grit) and sparse sponge-habitats (sand interspersed with low cover of sponge-dominated assemblages). The sheltered coves were dominated by sand and seagrass habitats consisting of beds of the seagrasses Halophila australis, Zostera tasmanica and Posidonia australis, with variations in species composition, patchiness and percentage cover evident within and between coves.
- 4.In February 2004 the Kent Group MPA was announced, covering all waters out to the 3 nmi limit containing two areas defined as a Sanctuary Zone (‘no take’) and a Habitat Protection Zone (‘restricted take’). Overall, seabed habitat mapping generated a capability to define the boundary and size of potential MPA zones within the Kent Group of islands and was an essential component of the planning process to improve the likelihood that the MPA was comprehensive, adequate and representative (CAR).
- 5.The need to define habitats at multiple scales within a hierarchical classification scheme that are meaningful in terms of biodiversity and CAR principles and identifiable using mapping techniques is discussed.
Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.