Benthic Habitat Mapping

Side Scan Sonar Image

Acoustic Side Scan Sonar Sea Bottom Image

Benthic Habitat Mapping combines state of the art side-scan sonar imagery and GPS coordinates with benthic grabs (2-gallon samples of sediment and macro invertebrate species), to produce a detailed snapshot of the harbor’s sea floor.

Our Benthic Habitat Mapping Project (BHM) will provide the blueprint for informing harbor management decisions including:  dredging, sediment management and mooring field and aquaculture expansion.  It will also supply essential data for use as a baseline reference in the event of a major storm or pollution event.

The BHMP will give us a physical and biological scientific data based “snapshot in time” that will deliver invaluable data for protection, preservation and planning for the evolution of the harbor.

The Barnstable Harbor BHMP, is being performed by Mark Borrelli of Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.  Our BHMP will join BHMP projects already completed by the Center for Coastal Studies for Provincetown and Wellfleet Harbors, and will contribute essential information for the entire Cape Cod Bay ecosystem and coastal food chain.

A Benthic Habitat Map for Barnstable Harbor will contribute significantly to ensuring that we have the information necessary to manage and protect “the harbor we love”.

Friends of Barnstable Harbor’s BHMP will map the entire harbor ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the entire harbor ecosystem.  Data will include detailed imagery and location of eelgrass beds, natural shellfish beds, and marine debris, as well as sediment types and macro-invertebrate counts (see image below).

The last time Barnstable Harbor was mapped was in the 1930’s utilizing a lead-line and a benchmark survey from Mussel Point.  Our BHMP will conform to current Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standards (CMECS).  We hope that our BHMP will attract more scientists to conduct studies in our harbor, thus begetting further research and data.

Finally, upon completion of the project, we will have an image of our harbor that will  enable us to identify specific areas of interest or concern.  The utilization of drone technology and/or re-sampling will enable us to document and understand trends in our harbor system.

The Center for Coastal Studies projects the cost for this project to be $165,000.  They have completed 22 days of mapping data collection and have collect 90 Benthic Grab Samples at 30 unique sites.  Counting and documentation of benthic samples will take several months more to complete.

The Friends of Pleasant Bay Benthic Habitat Mapping reports were made public this past August.  Here are PDF files of both the summary and the full report:

Friends of Pleasant Bay Benthic Report -Summary

Center for Coastal Studies Pleasant Bay Report Final 2018 Full Technical Report

Side Scan Sonar Imagery

Left: Sonar image of shellfish beds in Wellfleet Harbor. White arrows highlight individual quahog shells. Center: Same tidal flat at low tide. Quahog shells are placed on muddy intertidal flats to provide substrate for oyster growth. Right: Movement of chains attached to mooring blocks cleared an area of eelgrass.  Below: Macro-Invertebrates

Benthic Habitat Mapping Macro Invertebrates

Your fully tax-deductible donation to the Benthic Habitat Mapping Project is crucial to guaranteeing that future generations will be able to experience the same magnificent Barnstable Harbor that we have enjoyed and that has been the centerpiece of Cape Cod’s north side for hundreds of years.