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A synthetic map of the northwest European Shelf sedimentary environment for applications in marine science

Wilson, Robert J. and Speirs, Douglas C. and Sabatino, Alessandro and Heath, Michael R. (2018) A synthetic map of the northwest European Shelf sedimentary environment for applications in marine science. Earth System Science Data, 10. pp. 109-130. ISSN 1866-3516

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Abstract

Seabed sediment mapping is important for a wide range of marine policy, planning and scientific issues, and there has been considerable national and international investment around the world in the collation and synthesis of sediment data sets. However, in Europe at least, much of this effort has been directed towards seabed classification and mapping of discrete habitats. Scientific users often have to resort to reverse-engineering these classifications to recover continuous variables such as mud content and median grain size that are required for many ecological and biophysical studies. Here we present a new set of 0.125 by 0.125° resolution synthetic maps of continuous properties of the northwest European sedimentary environment, extending from the Bay of Biscay to the northern limits of the North Sea and the Faroe Islands. The maps are a blend of gridded survey data, and statistically modelled values based on distributions of bed shear stress due to tidal currents and waves, and bathymetric properties. Recent work has shown that statistical models can predict sediment composition in British waters and the North Sea with high accuracy, and here we extend this to the entire shelf and to the mapping of other key seabed parameters. The maps include percentage compositions of mud, sand and gravel; porosity and permeability; median grain size of the whole-sediment and of the sand and the gravel fractions; carbon and nitrogen content of sediments; percentage of seabed area covered by rock; mean and maximum depth-averaged tidal velocity and wave-orbital velocity at the seabed; and mean monthly natural disturbance rates. A number of applications for these maps exist, including species distribution modelling and the more accurate representation of seafloor biogeochemistry in ecosystem models. The data products are available from http://dx.doi.org/10.15129/07bc686e-a354-40de-8c08-372ced7aad64.