Camera sled and beam trawl data for the Maryland offshore wind areas
|Author(s)||Cruz-Marrero Wilmelie1, Cullen Daniel1, Gay Najja2, Stevens Bradley1|
|Affiliation(s)||1 : University of Maryland Eastern Shore , USA
2 : Lawrence University, USA
Offshore wind farms are a crucial component for the improvement of renewable energy in the United States. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) designated ~170 km2 of shelf area for wind energy development off the coast of Maryland, USA. In order to understand potential environmental impacts of wind turbine installation on the benthic ecosystem within the designated area, we conducted a study to visually characterize bottom habitats and epibenthic communities in the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf blocks of the Maryland wind energy area. Seven 5 km long transects were sampled using a towed camera sled with a downward-facing digital camera that captured images at 5 frames∙s-1s. Additional small-mesh beam trawling was also conducted at selected locations complementary for species identification.. Image data were analyzed using two image selection methods, random and systematic (i.e. video frames were selected at various intervals). For both methods, estimates of community diversity (Hill’s N2) stabilized with sample sizes ranging from 316 to 398 frames. Our results allowed us to define distinct epibenthic communities and bottom habitats that are associated with offshore wind energy sites and to develop a sampling technique for digital images that can be applied to other research programs.