Using remote sensing and geostatistical techniques for marine and coastal habitat mapping

  • Burnside, Niall (PI)
  • Stansbury, David (CoI)
  • Krolik-Root, Charles (CoI)
  • Fernandez Alonso, Miguel (CoI)
  • Tomline, Nicholas (PI)

Project Details


Identifying vulnerable seabed and coastal habitats is a fundamental step in the conservation and restoration of key marine and coastal habitats and their associated species. Detailed mapping of these areas allows us to establish preventive measures to conserve and protect these often fragile environments. Advances in remote sensing techniques (both marine and terrestrial) and geostatistical methods now provide important tools and methods which, when coupled with ground-truth data, can help in the identification, conservation and monitoring of these important environments.

The marine habitats component of this project has developed both a broad scale habitat model classified to European Nature Information System (EUNIS) level 3 and a detailed fine scale habitat model classified up to EUNIS level 6. In addition, a bathymetric model of the entire district was produced from survey data taken by IFCA’s patrol and research vessel ‘Watchful’.

Models were validated in sample areas against contemporary Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) surveys and habitat maps to assess accuracy; validation suggested a strong associated with independent data. The study highlights the importance of citizen science data (e.g. Seasearch) in developing an increased understanding and knowledge of the habitats in this region and others throughout the UK. More developed seabed habitat maps are crucial for the success of current and future fisheries management.

In the future the team will use Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) and differential-GPS to collect monitoring data for the coastal monitoring aspects of this project. It is intended that new systems and protocols will be developed for rapid assessment of the effect of new managed retreat management options at key scientifically important sites on the south coast of England.

The aim of the project is to develop fine-scaled marine habitat and bathymetry models of the south coast of England using remote sensing, geostatistics, and ground-truth (dGPS and site survey) data.

Key findings

The project has provided impact through international publications, presentations at international conferences such as AGU and IGARSS and technical reports. It has also fostered collaborative partnerships between researchers at the University of Brighton, Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority, Natural England, Environment Agency and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

Krolik-Root C. Stansbury D.L. Burnside N.G. (2015) Effective LiDAR-based modelling and visualisation of managed retreat scenarios for coastal planning: an example from the southern UK. Ocean & Coastal Management.114:164-174.

Tomline N.J. & Burnside N.G. (2014) Sussex Coastal Habitats Inshore Pilot II: Marine Habitat and Bathymetry Modelling. Technical Report. Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority. Prepared by School of the Environment & Technology, University of Brighton.

Fernández Alonso M., & Burnside N.G. (2014) Seabed mapping from multibeam acoustic data: an image based classification method. Presented at the European Union funded conference in July 2-3 2014, at University of Caen []

Fernández Alonso M., & Burnside N.G. (2013) Hastings Undersea Project: Beachy Head East Multibeam seabed mapping. Technical Report. Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority. Prepared by School of the Environment & Technology, University of Brighton.
Effective start/end date1/01/1331/12/18


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