Inventory and comparative evaluation of seabed mapping, classification and modeling activities in the Northwest Atlantic, USA to support regional ocean planning
Efforts are in motion globally to address coastal and marine management needs through spatial planning and concomitant seabed habitat mapping. Contrasting strategies are often evident in these processes among local, regional, national and international scientific approaches and policy needs. In answer to such contrasts among its member states, the United States Northeast Regional Ocean Council formed a Habitat Working Group to conduct a regional inventory and comparative evaluation of seabed characterization, classification, and modeling activities in New England. The goals of this effort were to advance regional understanding of ocean habitats and identify opportunities for collaboration. Working closely with the Habitat Working Group, we organized and led the inventory and comparative analysis with a focus on providing processes and tools that can be used by scientists and managers, updated and adapted for future use, and applied in other ocean management regions throughout the world. Visual schematics were a critical component of the comparative analysis and aided discussion among scientists and managers. Regional consensus was reached on a common habitat classification scheme (U.S. Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard) for regional seabed maps. Results and schematics were presented at a region-wide workshop where further steps were taken to initiate collaboration among projects. The workshop culminated in an agreement on a set of future seabed mapping goals for the region. The work presented here may serve as an example to other ocean planning regions in the U.S., Europe or elsewhere seeking to integrate a variety of seabed characterization, classification and modeling activities.