Alternative Title

Grant Title: Ecosystem approaches to aquatic health assessment: linking subtidal habitat quality, shoreline condition and estuarine fish communities

Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date



In the Chesapeake Bay, there is currently no comprehensive assessment of aquatic habitat heterogeneity or understanding of the effects of multiple stressors on the viability of these habitats. To assess the use of side-scan sonar technology with specially designed classification software, QTC SIDEVIEW developed by Quester Tangent Corporation as a tool to define subtidal nearshore habitat, two representative watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay were surveyed. Relationships between subtidal habitat and shoreline condition as well as linkages of habitat condition to fish community indices were assessed. Side-scan technology had the ability to image habitat at a resolution of less than 1 meter. Automated seabed classification shows promise as a delineation tool for broad seabed habitat classes. In the James River, relationships between shoreline condition and fish community indices were observed, while no association with bottom type was reflected in the data possibly due to the limited availability of vertical structure in this system. Observed relationships and habitat mapping protocols have the potential to be extrapolated to additional watersheds in the coastal plain, and become tools for future development of habitat indices and ecosystem management.



Benthic Aquatic Habitats, Fish Communities, Habitat Mapping, Aquatic Health

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Funding Agency: NOAA/NCBO Award Number: NA04NMF4570360