The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the NOAA Coastal Services Center are working together to map benthic habitats within Apalachicola Bay using a combination of traditional benthic sampling, sediment profiling imagery (SPI) and single-beam acoustics. Fieldwork was done during October of 1999, with 436 stations sampled using a SPI camera, 136 stations sampled using a Shipek grab for analysis of sediment texture, sediment organic content and benthic community parameters, and continuous acoustic measurements collected with a RoxAnnTM system. These data sets will be integrated to map benthic habitats including oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), sand communities and silty sediments.
Preliminary habitat classification was completed in July 2000. Habitats identified included oyster beds, high-energy sands, tube-dominated silts and SAV beds. Relationships among habitats and their sediments and faunal communities will be examined throughout the bay, and geographic information systems (GIS) will be used to map the occurrence and distribution of particular species, sediment types and habitat groups. These efforts were initiated to develop FDEP's geospatial data resources for Apalachicola Bay by providing up-to-date benthic habitat information for use in monitoring activities, future change assessments, and resource management planning.