The ability to quantify change in marine benthic habitats must be considered a key goal of marine habitat mapping activities. Changes in distribution of distinct suites of benthic biological species may occur as a result of natural or human induced processes and these processes may operate at a range of temporal and spatial scales. It is important to understand natural small scale inter-annual patterns of change in order to separate these signals from potential patterns of longer term change. Work to describe these processes of change from an acoustic remote sensing stand point has thus far been limited due to the relatively recent availability of full coverage swath acoustic datasets and cost pressures associated with multiple surveys of the same area. This paper describes the use of landscape transition analysis as a means to differentiate seemingly random patterns of habitat change from systematic signals of habitat transition at a shallow (10–50 m depth) 18 km2 study area on the temperate Australian continental shelf between the years 2006 and 2007. Supervised classifications for each year were accomplished using independently collected high resolution (3 m cell-size) multibeam echosounder (MBES) and video-derived reference data. Of the 4 representative biotic classes considered, signals of directional systematic changes were observed to occur between a shallow kelp dominated class, a deep sessile invertebrate dominated class and a mixed class of kelp and sessile invertebrates. These signals of change are interpreted as inter-annual variation in the density and depth related extent of canopy forming kelp species at the site, a phenomenon reported in smaller scale temporal studies of the same species. The methods applied in this study provide a detailed analysis of the various components of the traditional change detection cross tabulation matrix allowing identification of the strongest signals of systematic habitat transitions across broad geographical regions. Identifying clear patterns of habitat change is an important first step in linking these patterns to the processes that drive them.
Field of Research
069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective
970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
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