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In order to effectively study, manage, conserve, and sustain shallow-subtidal ecosystems, a spatial inventory of the basic resources and habitats is essential. Because of the complexities of shallow-subtidal substrates, benthic communities, geology, geomorphology, and water column attributes, few standard protocols are fully articulated and tested that describe the mapping and inventory processes and accompanying interpretations. In this paper, we describe a systematic approach to map Rhode Island’s shallow-subtidal coastal lagoon ecosystems, by using, integrating, and reconciling multiple data sets to identify the geology, soils, biological communities, and environments that, collectively, define each shallow-subtidal habitat. We constructed maps for these lagoons via a deliberate, step by step approach. Acoustics and geostatistical modeling were used to create a bathymetric map. These data were analyzed to identify submerged landforms and geologic boundaries. Geologic interpretations were verified with video and grab samples. Soils were sampled, characterized, and mapped within the context of the landscape and geologic boundaries. Biological components and distributions were investigated using acoustics, grab samples, video, and sediment profile images. Data sets were cross-referenced and ground-truthed to test for inconsistencies. Maps and geospatial data, with Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC)-compliant metadata, were finalized after reconciling data set inconsistencies and made available on the Internet. These data allow for classification in the revised Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS). With these maps, we explored potential relationships among and between physical and biological parameters. In some cases, we discovered a clear match between habitat measures; in others, however, relationships were more difficult to distinguish and require further investigation.


John King and Emily Shumchenia in the Graduate School of Oceanography.

Brian Oakley and Jon Boothroyd are in the Department of Geosciences.

Carol Thornber has dual appointment with the Department of Natural Resources Science and the Department of Biological Sciences.

Mark Stolt and Michael Bradley are in the Department of Natural Resources Science.