New discoveries, semi-automated mapping and seabed exploration. The Irish national seabed survey and INFOMAR projects

Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Verbruggen, Koenraad۱; Cullen, Sean۱; Monteys, Xavier۱; Donovan, Archie۱; Furey, Tommy۲
Holding Date 08 September 2008

Ireland has a designated seabed area of over 8000,000km.sq, equal to some ten times its landmass and is appropriately a world leader in seabed mapping. The first major marine surveys of the continental shelf margin took place in 1995 and 1996, specifically to support territorial claims being developed under UNCLOS. In 1995 the government approved the Irish National Seabed Survey project, managed by the Geological Survey of Ireland which ran until 2005 and mapped all Irish designated waters over 200m water depth and a considerable area shallower than that. This project not only completed the continental margin mapping but provided a ground breaking dataset of bathymetric, magnetic, gravity and ancillary datasets to support a range of activities and research. In 2006, a successor programme to INSS, Integrated Mapping FOr the sustainable development of the MArine Resource (INFOMAR) was approved, managed jointly by the Irish Marine Institute and Geological Survey, with priority given to inshore areas and an expanded brief to not only complete the seabed mapping but to integrate and supply the data, and support the development of a range of added value products and projects. Collectively, these projects amount to one of the largest civilian marine mapping programmes ever undertaken and one of the largest marine geophysical datasets worldwide.
The understanding of Irish marine geology has grown hugely with the successive projects, which have also supported more than 50 research projects to date. Data derived from the programmes has supported the mapping of major cold-water coral colonies, including newly designated Marine SACs, discovery of significant glacial features, gas pockmark fields and hitherto unknown offshore expressions of major structures. As part of the developing skill set in marine geology, a leading edge expertise has been developed in supervised seabed classification of both acoustic and now LIDAR bathymetric data. Verified by dedicated programmes of ground truthing this technique is now routinely used to produce seabed surficial geology maps which can also be utilised for physical habitat definition. The data acquired by all surveys is now made available freely over the internet to parties who register their interest on-line, by use of a novel data delivery system, and this has led to development of new applications for the information acquired, including its incorporation in commercial navigation software and use to support infrastructural development. The project is a prime demonstration of the concept of "survey once, use many times" and remains a leading example of the application of marine geology and geophysics within a variety of integrated applications.