Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, TAROONA, HOBART, AUSTRALIA
Marine habitat mapping is becoming increasingly recognised as an important component of Marine Protected Area (MPAs) development in order to ensure candidate MPAs fulfil the requirements of being Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative. While Tasmanian waters include nine bioregions, the Bruny Bioregion was identified as a priority for mapping due to its high degree of marine endemism, high habitat diversity and the more urgent need for protection given the high population density of the region. Habitat maps at a scale of 1:25 000 were generated showing the principal coastal habitat types to the 40 m depth contour. The production of maps involved digitising of habitat boundaries from aerial photographs, and extensive field surveys from small vessels equipped with colour sounders, differential GPS and digital video. Maps were produced using the GIS application ArcView, allowing detailed analysis of habitat distribution by depth and exposure. Suggestions for potential MPA locations were objectively derived from the mapping results in a process aimed at maximising the habitat diversity for each location. Often numerous alternative locations and boundaries exist and the maps are intended to facilitate discussion of all possibilities. The broad nature of surveys often means that other-than dominant algae or invertebrates, unique features at the species, population or community level, are not readily detected. This additional biological information should be collated, however, if the protection of small-scale unique features is to be an important component of the MPA planning process. Often much of this information already exists but requires analysis within an MPA framework.