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Beyond bathymetry – coastal marine mapping

Travis Mason


The Southeast and Southwest Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring

Programmes in the UK have started to fill the “white ribbon” – the

nearshore region with typically very little data – with swath

bathymetry from about 1km offshore to the inter-tidal beach, through

collaboration with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Civil

Hydrography Programme.  This sharing of resources has proved a very

cost-effective solution, using the MCA/UKHO’s IHO Order 1a

specification and over-sight of the survey to ensure the suitability

of the data for navigation safety, whilst fulfilling the need for

maritime Local Authorities to obtain hitherto unobtainable data useful

for a range of coastal engineering applications.

The advent of high-quality backscatter data, collected simultaneously

with the full-density swath bathymetry has opened up a range of

applications beyond traditional navigation and charting.  The Channel

Coastal Observatory has recently used the backscatter and bathymetry

for marine mapping of sediments and habitats to EUNIS level.  Figure 1

shows an example of the bathymetry and resulting EUNIS Level III

marine habitat mapping near Folkestone, Kent.  Such detailed results

are of crucial importance for designation of potential Marine

Conservation Zones and other environmentally-designated areas yet, at

present, few of the potential conservation areas have been mapped to

this level of detail from swath bathymetry and backscatter.

Identification of areas of sediment, sand waves (indication a mobile

seabed) and pipelines etc. are of particular interest for coastal


All the bathymetry data collected by the Programmes is made freely

available and free, via a website where interested parties can

download directly the data they want, together with full FGDC-standard

metadata.  Information about the surveys will soon be added to the

MEDIN website with INSPIRE-compliant metadata.

The Programmes have deployed an extensive coastal wave and tide

network; the real-time wave and tide parameters are increasingly used

for thresholds for coastal operations and surveys.  The tide gauges

are of GLOSS standard and deployed to sit inside the UK National Tide

Gauge Network, notably at sites where there has been little tidal

information historically.  Again, all data are freely available, and

the quality-controlled data are sent to the UKHO.