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The semi-automated classification of acoustic imagery for characterizing coral reef ecosystems.

Author(s): Costa, B.M. and T.A. Battista

NCCOS Center: CCMA (http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/about/centers/ccma)

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: International Journal of Remote Sensing

Date of Publication: 2013

Reference Information: 34(18): 6389-6422.

Abstract: Coral reef habitat maps describe the spatial distribution and abundance of tropical marine resources, making them essential for ecosystem-based approaches to planning and management. Typically, these habitat maps have been created from optical and acoustic remotely sensed imagery using manual, pixel- and object-based classi?cation methods. However, past studies have shown that none of these classi?cation methods alone are optimal for characterizing coral reef habitats for multiple management applications because the maps they produce (1) are not synoptic, (2) are time consuming to develop, (3) have low thematic resolutions (i.e. number of classes), or (4) have low overall thematic accuracies. To address these de?ciencies, a novel, semi-automated objectand pixel-based technique was applied to multibeam echo sounder imagery to determine its utility for characterizing coral reef ecosystems. This study is not a direct comparison of these different methods but rather, a ?rst attempt at applying a new classi?cation technique to acoustic imagery. This technique used a combination of principal components analysis, edge-based segmentation, and Quick, Unbiased, and Ef?cient Statistical Trees (QUEST) to successfully partition the acoustic imagery into 35 distinct combinations of (1) major and (2) detailed geomorphological structure, (3) major and (4) detailed biological cover, and (5) live coral cover types. Thematic accuracies for these classes (corrected for proportional bias) were as follows: (1) 95.7%, (2) 88.7%, (3) 95.0%, (4) 74.0%, and (5) 88.3%, respectively. Approximately half of the habitat polygons were manually edited (hence the name ‘semi-automated’) due to a combination of mis-classi?cations by QUEST and noise in the acoustic data. While this method did not generate a map that was entirely reproducible, it does show promise for increasing the amount of automation with which thematically accurate benthic habitat maps can be generated from acoustic imagery.

Availability: Online.

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