Multiple resolution seabed mapping in the Isle of May and outer Firth of Forth, Scotland.

Start Date:
May 2012
End Date:
August 2013


This survey, from the small, 7.9m survey vessel BGS White Ribbon, is focussing on the shallow-water near-shore and environments in the outer Firth of Forth, and around Isle of May. The Isle of May and surrounding seabed form an important habitat for both marine mammals (Special Area of Conservation (SAC) as designated by the EU Habitatís Directive) and seabirds (Special Protection Area (SPA) as designated by the European Commissionís Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds). High-resolution acoustic data has been collected, and groundtruthed using a novel technique of extract seabed sediment grain size distributions from seabed photography. Much of the data fall within the proposed MPAís, and thus directly feed into the classification of the region.

Funded initially by DEFRA, The project was devised as a MAREMAP initiative, led by NOCS with contributions from BGS and SAMS. The project has formed part of a broader effort (Wynn et al., 2012) to contrast and compare different mapping methodologies (e.g. AUVs and gliders through to large survey vessels) for the purposes of identifying and monitoring Marine Protected Areas (MPAís).

The survey and data analysis has been conducted by BGS offshore survey staff and geologists. Project coordination was conducted along with project leader Russell Wynn of NOCS. Seabird scientists from CEH, and managers at SNH were consulted to guide survey efforts and to ensure the data had wider applicability.

The data themselves, along with data being collected summer 2013, will be used to characterize the distribution of seabed sediment, and seabed habitats with a focus on the influence to seabird foraging. Data/maps will also be used by Scottish Natural Heritage Scientists in their further investigation of the planned MPA at Isle of May.

The initial survey gave glimpses of large glacigenic features, which weíre returning to survey this year. It is anticipated that the data will provide important controls on the dynamics of Forth palaeo ice stream, and ultimately the history of the British and Irish Ice Sheet.

What's next

Data from the project will inform on BGS' contribution to the NERC grant 'BRITICE chrono'.