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Geo-acoustic mapping of benthic habitat distribution (GEO-HABIT)
Start date: May 1, 2012, End date: Apr 30, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"It is widely recognized that important efforts must be done towards the protection and preservation of the Deep-Sea environments, which are increasingly threatened by human impacts (e.g.: trawl fishing and marine pollution). These efforts imply a further knowledge of the spatial organization of benthic communities in Deep-Sea and an implementation of efficient and cost-saving mapping methods. GEO-HABIT is a multidisciplinary project that will focus on a holistic study of the relationship between seafloor geology and biodiversity patterns. Important insights are expected on the role that physical elements play in the distribution of Deep-Sea habitats and in the development of an integrated and nested-scale method to map them. Data mainly consist of geo-acoustic data (high-resolution Multibeam bathymetry and Sidescan Sonar), HD videos from ROV (Victor6000-IFREMER) and Manned-Submersible (Jago-GEOMAR) and rock/sediment seafloor samples. The study will focus on geomorphic features (Submarine canyons, Seamounts) which are benthic ecosystem hot-spots due to their specific environmental settings and which, according to the European Community, potentially deserve site protection (European Habitats Directive), thus indicating the timeliness and relevance of the project. With the support of researchers from NOC (National Oceanographic Centre), with a long-standing expertise in the fields of habitat mapping, biotic and abiotic characters of the seafloor will be analyzed, classified and mapped at unprecedented detail through the use of cutting-edge geophysical instrumentation and their functional relationships will be explored through multivariate statistical analysis. As a second step, new methods based on geo-spatial analysis will be developed in order to derive statistically robust predictive models of benthic habitat distribution, with relevant impact for the conservation of biodiversity and science-based management strategies of natural resources."
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