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Integration of seafloor point data in usSEABED

January 1, 2007

Sediments of the beach, nearshore, and continental shelves record a complex interplay of processes including wave energy and direction , currents, beach erosion or accretion, bluff or cliff retreat, fluvial input, sediment longshore and cross-shelf transport processes, contaminant content and transport, sediment sources and sinks, and others. In turn, sediments and rocks modify wave patterns, affect recreation and tourism, and provide habitat for fish, epifauna, and infauna. Character of the surficial seafloor also influences navigation, commercial and recreational fishing and gathering of other food sources, communication, piplines, national defense, and provides geologic resources including sand and gravel aggregates, minerals, and real or potential energy sources. The beaches, nearshore, and continental margins fall under overlapping levels of managerial responsibility between Federal, State, regional, and local government agencies and consortia. In addition, universities and other academic institutions investigate these places for pure or applied scientific reasons.

Mapping is usually the first step in understanding any issue and is often comprised of remotely gathered geophysical data such as bathymetry and backscatter imagery, and groundtruthing; that is, the collection of physical and virtual samples to tie the remotely gathered data to reality. The physical samples are described and (or) carefully analyzed for grain-size information -- which records both the site's physical conditions and geologic past -- and commonly, for constituent components such as mineral and rock types (to determine onland sources and in situ chemical processes), carbonate and organic content and microfossils (for biological and oceanographic influences), and structure such as layering and bioturbation (for physical influences). The samples may also be subjected to physical tests such as comp[action analyses, liquefaction or plasticity limits, ans other parameters important when considering construction of offshore structures. In recent years, virtual sampling of the seafloor has become popular, through the use of towed video or photographic equipment and the addition of camera to oceanographic equipment such as corers and tripods.

Before about ten years ago, most maps were made by hand. Recently, with the advent of desktop GIS packages, map making and resource analysis can be done nearly "on-the-fly" if geographically located data exist. While the problems of projection, scale, and resolution of digitized paper maps are commonly known amongst GIS-users, access to the original underlying point data allows for maps to be regenerated for digital use using statistically proven methods, provides increasing data density by including multiple studies, as well as allows the point data to be used in other ways than just mapping.

These point data may be available in raw or refined or in worded descriptions. Raw data such as granulometric analyses can be manipulated through the use of known equations or empirical relationships to provide information about other parameters of the sediment, such as mean grainsize, sorting, erodability, or rugosity. If refined data are presented such as gravel, sand, and mud percentages, the parameter noted earlier may be estimated. In the case of worded descriptions, values for geologic terms can be assigned, for example, "fine sand" equate to 0.2 mm sized particles, to provide numeric terms for GIS or modeling purposes.

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