Seabed Mapping for the 21st Century – The Marine Environmental Mapping Programme (MAREMAP): Preface

John A. Howe, Alan Stevenson, Robert Gatliff
2015 Earth and environmental science transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh  
During the 1970s and 1980s, the British Geological Survey (BGS) carried out systematic surveys of the seabed and subseabed around Britain, as part of a Government-funded programme to map the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS). Using an array of sampling, coring and seismic profiling equipment, the programme resulted in a series of geological maps and scientific publications which described the sediments at the seafloor, the sediments deposited during the Quaternary glaciations, and the older
more » ... the older sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks. These systematic surveys of the UKCS were followed during the 1990s by BGS and industry co-funded surveys in the deep-water areas to the west of the UK, such as the Rockall Trough and Plateau; although here, the density of sampling, shallow boreholes and seismic surveys was significantly reduced. In recent years, the focus for offshore surveys has turned to the use of multibeam echo-sounder (MBES) data, supplemented by sampling and seismic profiling where possible. The MBES data provide images of the seafloor that not only allow geologists and other marine scientists to construct new highresolution interpretations of the seafloor, but also allow the data collected in previous programmes to be re-interpreted, in places where the MBES data have provided greater detail of the seafloor environment. This step-change in resolution was driven by new technology, but also by new competing uses of the marine environment. In the 1970s, the prime purpose of the new surveys was focused on the growing oil and gas industry; but, since then, there have been dramatic increases in offshore industry, including aggregate extraction and the construction of some of the largest offshore wind farms in the world. Environmental issues, associated with coastal erosion, fishing, habitat preservation and the reaction of the seas to climate change, have resulted in EU-led regulations which require much higher resolution data than that provided by the early maps. Westminster and the devolved governments have reacted to these challenges by developing marine spatial planning. However, the real advances have been from the collection and interpretation of new MBES data. MBES data have been acquired by many different public sector organisations, reflecting the different drivers. The largest programme of data acquisition, the Civil Hydrography Programme, is administered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) on behalf of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), to gather data to update the nation's nautical charts and publications. However, bathymetric data and derived information such as acoustic reflectance (backscatter) are also useful to geologists, biologists, oceanographers, conservation agencies, fisheries scientists and many other groups with interests in the marine environment, each of whom also acquire MBES data on a more limited scale. Current estimates are that 30-40 % of the UK offshore has been surveyed using MBES techniques. A modern multibeam sonar can provide up to 25,000 soundings per second -an incredible increase from the old, laborious style of weighted sounds using a lead-line! Recognising the need to improve co-ordination and sharing of information, a number of initiatives have been established in recent years. To help plan and share opportunities to collect data, the MCA and UKHO organise an annual meeting at which organisations present survey results and their survey plans for the following year. This Civil Hydrography Annual Seminar helps to ensure that marine survey organisations avoid duplication of effort, but also identifies opportunities for collaboration and adding multidisciplinary objectives to survey plans. The data collected are archived and maintained at each of the survey organisations responsible for acquisition; but to improve access to marine data, the Marine Environment Data and Information Network (MEDIN) was established by a consortium of 16 sponsoring organisations. MEDIN
doi:10.1017/s175569101500016x fatcat:7h2hwsbj45e2nd5rtrp3ulxp5i