Building models to predict the distribution of seabed habitats

Seabed habitat mapping is a resource intensive process both in terms of the time required to collect and process the data, and the financial cost. Consequently, high resolution habitat maps are only available for a relatively small proportion of the seabed of north-west Europe. To help fill the gaps between these studies and offer an indication of the habitats that might be present on the seabed, the MESH Project developed a series of techniques for predictive modelling of habitat distribution. 
Marine benthic data are inherently variable in quality and patchy in nature, and therefore habitat modelling uses the more widely available geophysical and hydrographic data to predict the likely habitat distribution for areas not yet mapped. Our modelling work developed methods and tools to predict the occurrence of habitats and to produce probability maps for the distribution of habitats. This work was primarily based on the relationships between the main environmental factors and the distribution of selected biological communities.
The development of predictive models contribute to a better understanding of the factors and processes responsible for structuring the distribution and composition of marine habitats and their associated biological communities. Once validated, these models are time and cost-beneficial tools and enable the coverage of areas where no habitat information is available.
Predicting the distribution of seabed habitats on sands in Belgium
(© University of Gent 2007)

Outputs and Products

The key products delivered by the predictive modelling actions are:
Maps showing the distribution of Marine landscapes
The Habitat Matching Program for assigning EUNIS habitat types to benthic sample data 
Additional outputs are available in the Product Library.

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