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Sea Bottom Structure & Fisheries

Large-scale geomorphology (e.g. basin edges and channels) dictates the flow of oceanic currents and the resultant distribution of bottom dwelling organisms. These in turn serve as habitat for other species, communities, and ecosystems. Despite this, since bathymetric mapping is expensive and driven by the needs of shipping industries and port security needs, only a small fraction of areas with high marine biodiversity, particularly in remote tropical regions, have been mapped at sufficiently accurate scales as to be useful for conservation and management purposes. Recently developed tools of remote sensing have been applied for these purposes but this science is still in its infancy. The Marine & Coastal Geography Group at Texas A&M University is leading the effort to expand the capabilities and value of bathymetric mapping for marine resource management.

We combine low-cost single-beam bathymetric mapping techniques (Heyman et al., 2007; Kobara and Heyman, in press) with geomorphometric descriptions of reef fish spawning aggregation sites (Kobara and Heyman in press) to provide a visual basis for examining physical effects of geomorphology on oceanic currents and dispersal patterns, particularly at fish spawning aggregation areas. We are also beginning to expand into dual-beam sonar systems that can illustrate both benthic habitat and overlying fish biomass (e.g. Kracker et al., in press). Dr. Heyman has proposed extending these techniques both throughout Belize and the Texas Gulf Coast. Collaborations with Dr. Hongxing Liu and his remote-sensing students at Texas A&M University are focused on developing better methods for coral reef habitat mapping using remote sensing techniques, particularly color and texture analysis (e.g. Su et al., in press). Drs. Heyman and Houser continue to develop GIS-based, watershed scale hydrological models to estimate runoff and sediment delivery to coastal regions (Heyman and Kjerfve 1999; Kobara and Heyman unpublished data), and expand upon physical oceanographic processes with Drs. Björn Kjerfve (World Maritime University, Stokholm, Sweden) and Tal Ezer (Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia).

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