• National Morphodynamic Framework
  • Beaufort Shelf Mapping
  • Geoscience for Eastern Scotian Shelf

Project time frame: March 2006 - April 2009. GOM project X41.

The project will provide a national scale perspective from which vulnerable regions of Canadian seabed can be identified and national seabed management priorities set. The emphasis will be on establishing a countrywide perspective of the geo-environment and habitats on continental shelves; understanding how geological controls on benthic habitat vary through time, and assessment of the relative importance of physical factors at different spatial scales. The unifying idea of the project is to interpret and map emergent properties of Canadian seabed habitats based on the integration of knowledge of geologic, oceanographic and ecological patterns and processes on different spatial and temporal scales. The project will accommodate a variety of interdisciplinary issues important for Ocean Management, crucial for achieving balance between resource exploitation and preservation of unique seabed habitats.

The methodology will include compilation of existing data in GIS databases; physical modeling of seabed processes, and groundtruthing of the models. In particular: bathymetry, grain size, geomorphology, oceanography and benthic data will be compiled and synthesized for the study areas. These data will be used for constructing and running wave and current models based on current stresses and wave climatology to predict near bed disturbances and sediment mobility for all shelf regions. The bathymetric model will also serve as a general guide for the geospatial database on physical and biological patterns on Canadian shelves. The information on sediment type, geomorphology, palaeogeography, sediment mobility and other types of seabed disturbances will be used to understand the relationship between the geological environment and seafloor processes on Canadian continental shelves. Biological data layers in the GIS project will include information on existing benthic communities, distribution of commercially important benthic species, groundfish catches, data on sampling and surveying effort, etc. Physical and biological data will be summarized following the logic of the habitat template approach already successfully implemented on the Scotian Shelf. The resulting maps will act as a guide for defining areas of concern, important in predicting risk of human disturbance to seabed habitats, and in assessing the likelihood of recovery of benthic populations following a destructive event. In situ sediment dynamics data for model calibration and grountruthing information will be obtained from other GOM projects but may also include additional sites depending on Oceans Action Plan priorities. The project will maximize benefits by utilizing data from other studies in high-priority Ocean management areas by using existing high-resolution information from the selection of sites for illustrating the most important seabed processes characteristic for the distinctly different habitats on Canadian shelves.


Project time frame: March 2004 - April 2009. PERD project 122.03

The project will produce seabed benthic habitat base maps for assessing environmental impacts related to hydrocarbon development of the Beaufort Shelf. For areas of environmental concern we will integrate historic and new seabed biological and physical groundtruth data and high-resolution multibeam sonar data of sectors of the Beaufort Shelf for ecosystem assessment.

Compared to other Canadian waters, Beaufort Sea benthos is relatively poorly studied. Most of the benthic studies here were carried using grab or dredge sampling of macrofauna, (i.e. animals larger than 1 mm), providing good taxonomical resolution, but limiting spatial coverage. Recently, a number of studies were carried on megafauna (animals >1 cm) using video and photo observations of seabed, providing broader spatial coverage of benthic distribution. We carried out video sampling of seabed of the Canadian part of the Beaufort Sea (from 2004 until 2007 on board CCGS Nahidik) with an objective to create maps of diversity and abundance of benthic mega- and macrofauna in the region. Spatial distribution of benthic invertebrates in the Canadian Arctic environment is influenced by stability of bottom substrates, oceanographic regime (e.g., water temperature and salinity gradients) and limiting availability of food.


Project time frame: March 2003 - April 2006. GOM project X31.

The Geoscience for Eastern Scotian Shelf Integrated Ocean Management Project has been successful in addressing the needs of area stakeholders and decision makers tasked with management of the area largely through assembling foundation data and establishing and building on the state of knowledge of this large ocean area. This has focused on surficial geological and oceanographic information, involving cataloguing, compiling, digitising, analysing, processing, new data collection [11, 12] and mapping.  Vast amounts of such geoscience and benthic habitat information has been amassed at various scales and mainly in digital form. The project succeeded with developing new theoretical approaches to benthic habitat mapping, pinpointing areas of concern on the scale of Scotian Shelf; and provides an extensive database and surficial and subsurface geo-framework which serves as foundation data to support many of the needs and activities on the Eastern Scotian Shelf. It is culminating in the production of thematic interpreted maps across several areas of concern, e.g. Sable Island and The Gully areas and inner shelf areas.