Mielck, F.; Hass, H.C., and Betzler, C., 2014. High-resolution hydroacoustic seafloor classification of sandy environments in the German Wadden Sea.
The knowledge regarding the distribution of seabed environments in the North Sea is still fragmentary. Hydroacoustic devices can provide rapid and reliable information on the acoustic characteristics of the seafloor. Data of a typical, exclusively sandy and shallow investigation area located in the German Wadden Sea are here presented. The study area includes shallow sublittoral areas and deep channels. The acoustic ground discrimination system RoxAnn was used to measures backscatter intensities, which indicate roughness and hardness parameters of seafloor. Sidescan-sonar data provide acoustic images that are instrumental in seafloor characterization. For ground truthing, surface-sediment samples were collected. The results reveal surficial sediments that range from fine to coarse sand. Finer material is rather restricted to the shallow patches, while coarser sediments characterize the deeper tidal channels. The determined roughness and hardness parameters also strongly increase within these inlets following the change in grain size. The sidescan-sonar imagery shows flow-transverse subaqueous dunes of different sizes. Both ebb- and flood-dominated structures are present. RoxAnn reflects these zones of subaqueous dunes basically through the formation of distinct clusters of data points in hardness vs. roughness scatter plots. Further, the results show that areas characterized by similar grain-size spectra and sonar imagery occasionally reveal completely different roughness and hardness properties. This is caused by varying amounts of shell fragments on the seafloor. Both in situ and hydroacoustic methods are suitable for identifying seafloor properties, but the combination of methods yields more information at higher precision, especially about shell content and grain-size distribution.