Benthic assessment techniques utilized in soft sediment areas are of limited utility in glacial moraine habitats that are structurally complex and largely composed of hard substrata. We present a multi-modal approach consisting of multibeam bathymetry, video, and still imagery that collectively provides the knowledge base necessary to perform impact assessments in these habitats. Baseline and post-construction surveys were conducted adjacent to the Block Island Wind Farm to develop and test these methodologies within the context of offshore wind development, specifically for detecting and documenting anchoring-related impacts to moraine habitats. Habitat data were evaluated using the substrate and biotic components of the national classification standard, the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard, recommended by federal regulators, with modifications to present results in terms of predicted vulnerability to disturbance. Habitats near the wind farm were diverse and patchy, ranging from rippled gravelly sand to continuous cobble/boulder fields with high biotic cover. Anchor furrows were detected in moderate value habitats in bathymetric and video data. The multi-modal survey approach tested at the Block Island Wind Farm and presented here is now specifically recommended by federal agencies and is being used to inform efforts currently underway to map and assess benthic habitats for a number of U.S. projects seeking federal permits.
This article is part of a Special Issue on Shallow Water Mapping.