GIS and aquatic science

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become an integral part of aquatic science and limnology. Water by its very nature is dynamic. Features associated with water are thus ever-changing. To be able to keep up with these changes, technological advancements have given scientists methods to enhance all aspects of scientific investigation, from satellite tracking of wildlife to computer mapping of habitats. Agencies like the US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as other federal and state agencies are utilizing GIS to aid in their conservation efforts.

GIS is being used in multiple fields of aquatic science from limnology, hydrology, aquatic botany, stream ecology, oceanography and marine biology. Applications include using satellite imagery to identify, monitor and mitigate habitat loss. Imagery can also show the condition of inaccessible areas. Scientists can track movements and develop a strategy to locate locations of concern. GIS can be used to track invasive species, endangered species, and population changes.

One of the advantages of the system is the availability for the information to be shared and updated at any time through the use of web-based data collection.

Submersed Aquatic Veg Model1
ArcGIS Server website depicting submersed aquatic vegetation.

GIS and fish

Sidescan Sonar USGS pub1
USGS sidescan radar image over base image from Army Corps of Engineers, indicating sturgeon location and river mile.

In the past, GIS was not a practical source of analysis due to the difficulty in obtaining spatial data on habitats or organisms in underwater environments. With the advancement of radio telemetry, hydroacoustic telemetry and side-scan sonar biologists have been able to track fish species and create databases that can be incorporated into a GIS program to create a geographical representation. Using radio and hydroacoustic telemetry, biologists are able to locate fish and acquire relatable data for those sites, this data may include substrate samples, temperature, and conductivity. Side-scan sonar allows biologists to map out a river bottom to gain a representation of possible habitats that are used. These two sets of data can be overlaid to delineate the distribution of fish and their habitats for fish. This method has been used in the study of the pallid sturgeon.

Over a period of time large amounts of data are collected and can be used to track patterns of migration, spawning locations and preferred habitat. Before, this data would be mapped and overlaid manually. Now this data can be entered into a GIS program and be layered, organized and analyzed in a way that was not possible to do in the past. Layering within a GIS program allows for the scientist to look at multiple species at once to find possible watersheds that are shared by these species, or to specifically choose one species for further examination. The US Geological Survey (USGS) in, cooperation with other agencies, were able to use GIS in helping map out habitat areas and movement patterns of pallid sturgeon. At the Columbia Environmental Research Center their effort relies on a customized ArcPad and ArcGIS, both ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) applications, to record sturgeon movements to streamline data collection. A relational database was developed to manage tabular data for each individual sturgeon, including initial capture and reproductive physiology. Movement maps can be created for individual sturgeon. These maps help track the movements of each sturgeon through space and time. This allowed these researchers to prioritize and schedule field personnel efforts to track, map, and recapture sturgeon.

GIS and macrophytes

Fish Movements USGS
Map created from GIS database depicting the movements of individual sturgeon.
Submersed Aquatic Veg prediction1
Surveyed (left) and predicted (right) distributions of submersed aquatic vegetation distribution Upper Mississippi River in 1989. The survey data were from the land cover/land use geographic information created by the U.S. Geological Survey Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center on the basis of interpretation of aerial photography of 1989.

Macrophytes are an important part of healthy ecosystems. They provide habitat, refuge, and food for fish, wildlife, and other organisms. Though natural occurring species are of great interest so are the invasive species that occur alongside these in our environment. GIS is being used by agencies and their respective resource managers as a tool to model these important macrophyte species. Through the use of GIS resource managers can assess the distributions of this important aspect of aquatic environments through a spatial and temporal scale. The ability to track vegetation change through time and space to make predictions about vegetation change are some of the many possibilities of GIS. Accurate maps of the aquatic plant distribution within an aquatic ecosystem are an essential part resource management.

It is possible to predict the possible occurrences of aquatic vegetation. For example, the USGS has created a model for the American wild celery (Vallisneria americana) by developing a statistical model that calculates the probability of submersed aquatic vegetation. They established a web link to an Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) ArcGIS Server website *Submersed Aquatic Vegetation Model to make their model predictions available online. These predictions for distribution of submerged aquatic vegetation can potentially have an effect on foraging birds by creating avoidance zones by humans. If it is known where these areas are, birds can be left alone to feed undisturbed. When there are years where the aquatic vegetation is predicted to be limited in these important wildlife habitats, managers can be alerted.

Invasive species have become a great conservation concern for resource managers. GIS allows managers to map out plant locations and abundances. These maps can then be used to determine the threat of these invasive plants and help the managers decide on management strategies. Surveys of these species can be conducted and then downloaded into a GIS system. Coupled with this, native species can be included to determine how these communities respond with each other. By using known data of preexisting invasive species GIS models could predict future outbreaks by comparing biological factors. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Invasive Aquatic Species Program (CAES IAPP) is using GIS to evaluate risk factors. GIS allows managers to georeference plant locations and abundance. This allows for managers to display invasive communities alongside native species for study and management.

See also

External links

Acoustic tag

Acoustic tags are small sound-emitting devices that allow the detection and/or remote tracking of organisms in aquatic ecosystems. Acoustic tags are commonly used to monitor the behavior of fish. Studies can be conducted in lakes, rivers, tributaries, estuaries or at sea. Acoustic tag technology allows researchers to obtain locational data of tagged fish: depending on tag and receiver array configurations, researchers can receive simple presence/absence data, 2D positional data, or even 3D fish tracks in real-time with sub-meter resolution.

Acoustic tags allow researchers to:

Conduct Survival Studies

Monitor Migration/Passage/Trajectory

Track Behavior in Two or Three Dimensions (2D or 3D)

Measure Bypass Effectiveness at Dams and other Passages

Observe Predator/Prey Dynamics

Animal migration tracking

Animal migration tracking is used in wildlife biology, conservation biology, ecology, and wildlife management to study animals' behavior in the wild. One of the first techniques was bird banding, placing passive ID tags on birds legs, to identify the bird in a future catch-and-release. Radio tracking involves attaching a small radio transmitter to the animal and following the signal with a RDF receiver. Sophisticated modern techniques use satellites to track tagged animals, and GPS tags which keep a log of the animal's location. One of the many goals of animal migration research has been to determine where the animals are going; however, researchers also want to know why they are going "there". Researchers not only look at the animals' migration but also what is between the migration endpoints to determine if a species is moving to new locations based on food density, a change in water temperature, or other stimulus, and the animal's ability to adapt to these changes. Migration tracking is a vital tool in efforts to control the impact of human civilization on populations of wild animals, and prevent or mitigate the ongoing extinction of endangered species.

Aquatic science

Aquatic Science is the multidisciplinary study of aquatic ecosystems, both freshwater and marine. Scientific investigations range in scale from the molecular level of contaminants to the stresses on entire ecosystems.

Some of the major fields of study within aquatic sciences include: limnology (study of lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater); biogeochemistry; aquatic ecology; oceanography; marine biology; and hydrology.

Bioeconomics (fisheries)

Bioeconomics is closely related to the early development of theories in fisheries economics, initially in the mid-1950s by Canadian economists Scott Gordon (in 1954) and Anthony Scott (1955). Their ideas used recent achievements in biological fisheries modelling, primarily the works by Schaefer in 1954 and 1957 on establishing a formal relationship between fishing activities and biological growth through mathematical modelling confirmed by empirical studies, and also relates itself to ecology and the environment and resource protection.These ideas developed out of the multidisciplinary fisheries science environment in Canada at the time. Fisheries science and modelling developed rapidly during a productive and innovative period, particularly among Canadian fisheries researchers of various disciplines. Population modelling and fishing mortality were introduced to economists, and new interdisciplinary modelling tools became available for the economists, which made it possible to evaluate biological and economic impacts of different fishing activities and fisheries management decisions.

Catch reporting

Catch reporting is a part of Monitoring control and surveillance of Commercial fishing. Depending on national and local fisheries management practices, catch reports may reveal illegal fishing practices, or simply indicate that a given area is being overfished.

Data storage tag

A data storage tag (DST), also sometimes known as an archival tag, is a data logger that uses sensors to record data at predetermined intervals. Data storage tags usually have a large memory size and a long lifetime. Most archival tags are supported by batteries that allow the tag to record positions for several years. Alternatively some tags are solar powered and allow the scientist to set their own interval; this then allows data to be recorded for significantly longer than battery-only powered tags.

European Fishery MLS

In European Union member states, there exists a standard set of minimum landing sizes (MLS) for all major species of finfish and shellfish. These MLS are set under EU Council Regulation 850/98.

Fish measurement

Fish measurement is the measuring of the length of individual fish and of various parts of their anatomy. These data are used in many areas of ichthyology, including taxonomy and fisheries biology.

Fish stock

Fish stocks are subpopulations of a particular species of fish, for which intrinsic parameters (growth, recruitment, mortality and fishing mortality) are traditionally regarded as the significant factors determining the stock's population dynamics, while extrinsic factors (immigration and emigration) are traditionally ignored.

Fishery Resources Monitoring System

The Fishery Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS) is a partnership of intergovernmental fisheries organizations that share a wide range of high-quality information on the global monitoring and management of marine fishery resources.

Incidental catch

In fishing, incidental catch is that part of the catch which was not originally targeted, but was caught and retained anyway. It can be contrasted with discards, which is that part of the catch which was not originally targeted, but was caught and returned to the sea, and bycatch, which is for all the species caught apart from the targeted species.

The operational definitions used by the FAO for incidental catch and other related catches are as follows:

Target catch: The catch of a species or species assemblage which is primarily sought in a fishery, such as shrimp, flounders, cods

Incidental catch: Retained catch of non-targeted species

Discarded catch (usually shortened to discards): That portion of the catch returned to the sea as a result of economic, legal, or personal considerations.

Bycatch: Discarded catch plus incidental catch.

Minimum landing size

The minimum landing size (MLS) is the smallest fish measurement at which it is legal to keep or sell a fish. What the MLS is depends on the species of fish. Sizes also vary around the world, as they are legal definitions which are defined by the local regulatory authority. Commercial trawl and seine fisheries can control the size of their catch by adjusting the mesh size of their nets.

European Union – The European Fishery MLS applies to all EU member states.

Ocean Outcomes

Ocean Outcomes (O2) is an international nonprofit organization which works with commercial fisheries, seafood industry, local communities, government, NGOs, and other fishery stakeholders to develop and implement solutions towards more sustainable fisheries. O2's work includes fishery assessments, fishery improvement projects (FIPs), buyer engagement programs, supply chain analysis, and other contractual fishery-related work. Founded in 2015, O2 has team members and fishery projects across Northeast Asia, including on the ground operations in China, Japan, and South Korea.

Oceana (non-profit group)

Oceana is an ocean conservation and advocacy organization.

Particle (ecology)

In marine and freshwater ecology, a particle is a small object. Particles can remain in suspension in the ocean or freshwater. However, they eventually settle (rate determined by Stokes' law) and accumulate as sediment. Some can enter the atmosphere through wave action where they can act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Many organisms filter particles out of the water with unique filtration mechanisms (filter feeders). Particles are often associated with high loads of toxins which attach to the surface. As these toxins are passed up the food chain they accumulate in fatty tissue and become increasingly concentrated in predators (see bioaccumulation). Very little is known about the dynamics of particles, especially when they are re-suspended by dredging. They can remain floating in the water and drift over long distances. The decomposition of some particles by bacteria consumes a lot of oxygen and can cause the water to become hypoxic.

Pulse fishing

Pulse fishing is a fisheries management technique for preventing fish stocks from being overfished by periodically permitting a cycle of fishing followed by a fallow period which allows stocks to reconstitute. It should not to be confused with electric pulse fishing which is a fishing technique which involves pulsing electric currents.

Shrimp-Turtle Case

In 1994, the WTO intervened to address member concerns regarding the import of shrimp and its impact on turtles. This became known as the Shrimp and Turtle case. The ruling was adopted on November 6, 1998. However, Malaysia persisted in their complaint and initiated DSU Article 21.5 proceedings against the U.S. in 2001, but the U.S. prevailed in those hearings.

Sustainable seafood advisory lists and certification

Sustainable seafood advisory lists and certification are programs aimed at increasing consumer awareness of the environmental impact and sustainability of their seafood purchasing choices.

California-based Seafood Watch and Marine Conservation Society's fish online are some of the best-known guides. One of the best-known certification programs is Marine Stewardship Council's scheme for consumer seafood products.

Other programs include regional guides, such as that produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS). In Canada, SeaChoice produces assessments and recommendations using the traffic light system, while recommendation of restaurants is done by Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise.

Water column

A water column is a conceptual column of water from the surface of a sea, river or lake to the bottom sediment. Descriptively, the deep sea water column is divided into five parts—pelagic zones (from Greek πέλαγος (pélagos), 'open sea')—from the surface to below the floor, as follows: epipelagic, from the surface to 200 meters below the surface; mesopelagic, from 200 to 1000 meters below the surface; bathypelagic, from 1000 to 4000 meters below the surface; abyssopelagic, from 4000 meters below the surface to the level sea floor; hadopelagic, depressions and crevices below the level sea floor.

The concept of water column is useful since many aquatic phenomena are explained by the incomplete vertical mixing of chemical, physical or biological parameters. For example, when studying the metabolism of benthic organisms, it is the specific bottom layer concentration of available chemicals in the water column that is meaningful, rather than the average value of those chemicals throughout the water column.

Water columns are used chiefly for environmental studies evaluating the stratification or mixing of the thermal or chemically stratified layers in a lake, stream or ocean: for example, by wind-induced currents. Some of the common parameters analyzed in the water column are pH, turbidity, temperature, hydrostatic pressure, salinity, total dissolved solids, various pesticides, pathogens and a wide variety of chemicals and biota.

The term water column is also commonly used in scuba diving to describe the vertical space through which divers ascend and descend.

Aquatic ecosystems

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