Detection and characterization of benthic filamentous algal stands (Cladophora sp.) on rocky substrata using a high-frequency echosounder

David C. Depew, Andrew W. Stevens, Ralph E.H. Smith, Robert E. Hecky

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 7:693-705 (2009) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2009.7.693

ABSTRACT: A high-frequency echosounder was used to detect and characterize percent cover and stand height of the benthic filamentous green alga Cladophora sp. on rocky substratum of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Comparisons between in situ observations and estimates of the algal stand characteristics (percent cover, stand height) derived from the acoustic data show good agreement for algal stands that exceeded the height threshold for detection by acoustics (~7.5 cm). Backscatter intensity and volume scattering strength were unable to provide any predictive power for estimating algal biomass. A comparative analysis between the only current commercial software (EcoSAV™) and an alternate method using a graphical user interface (GUI) written in MATLAB® confirmed previous findings that EcoSAV functions poorly in conditions where the substrate is uneven and bottom depth changes rapidly. The GUI method uses a signal processing algorithm similar to that of EcoSAV but bases bottom depth classification and algal stand height classification on adjustable thresholds that can be visualized by a trained analyst. This study documents the successful characterization of nuisance quantities of filamentous algae on hard substrate using an acoustic system and demonstrates the potential to significantly increase the efficiency of collecting information on the distribution of nuisance macroalgae. This study also highlights the need for further development of more flexible classification algorithms that can be used in a variety of aquatic ecosystems.