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Skippers of the Barcelona World Race bring off UNESCO’s latest mission

Evaluation of different habitat mapping techniques in Kvarken UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, Baltic Sea

There is an increasing need for detailed information on underwater habitats in shallow coastal areas. Not only do these areas contribute with some of the oceans widest array of species and habitats but they are also among the areas which are strongly and widely utilised by humans.

The development of new methods used for underwater mapping is an active field of research.Methods need to be efficient, produce reliable data and the price tag needs to be reasonable, this is an immense challenge.

The Finnish Natural Heritage Services governs all state owned water. During the last five years they have (through different projects) gathered four different types of datasets, all from the same UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites in the Kvarken archipelago. The site was chosen because of its special ecological and geological features (i.e. De Geer moraines’) and because it is a NATURA 2000 site and a HELCOM marine protected area.

The data sets collected were: LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging); mainly used on land for topographic mapping, sidscan sonar; used for marine mapping but mainly geological features, dive and drop-video; more traditional techniques used mainly for groundtruthing. A comparison between all the datasets where made regarding the applicability to habitat mapping and an assessment of what combination of techniques would be most efficient and would give the best result. The last area of interest was the modelling of usable maps for managers of marine areas, in this case the HELCOM-HUB classification system was chosen, whit great results.

Authors: Ulrika Björkman* and Riihimäqui Anu

Country: * Finland