Benthic Sediment Profile Imaging

Contributing Partners:

Get It Now

Sediment Profile Imaging (SPI) data developed by the NOAA Office for Coastal Management record the nearshore sediment to the depth of camera penetration, as well as the physical, chemical, geological, and biological features of the epibenthos (organisms living on the sea floor).

Descriptive attributes of sediment type and character, as well as biological taxa—groups of organisms judged to belong to discrete units—are documented for each sample. SPI data are useful for quick assessment of bottom character, especially the interface between sediment and water, the presence of methane, the stage of biological succession, and other characteristics.

Data Specifications

  • Area of Coverage: Varies by project. Normally range from mean high water to the limit of state jurisdictional waters (usually three miles). Project extents range from individual bay systems to entire state coastlines in Maine, New York, Virginia, and Florida.
  • Date(s) Available: Vary by location, ranging from 1995 to 2004
  • Format: ESRI point shapefile
  • Resolution: Approximately 0.5 meters planar extent, depth is variable
  • Minimal Mapping Unit: 0.5 meters
  • Accuracy: 100 percent for observed points


  • Developed in close cooperation with state and local partners to ensure a high degree of accuracy and applicability
  • Acquisition and mapping methods employ nationally standardized protocols
  • Organized according to the Florida System for Classification of Habitats in Estuarine and Marine Environments (SCHEME)
  • Analysis of sediment and biological character based on visual analysis and supporting grab information
  • Samples assigned to five general habitat types (shell beds, ampelisca mats, sandy bottom, silty bottom, and oligozoic). Additional attributes are unique to each project

Data available in:

  • Florida - Apalachicola Bay
  • New York - Jamaica Bay and Lower Bay
  • Maine - Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Virginia - Chesapeake Bay

Notes and Limitations: SPI data are collected in a systematic pattern distributed through the project area and require some interpolation to generate a comprehensive data set. Interpolations of these data should be used with caution due to potentially large un-sampled areas that are present within the output data. Users are strongly encouraged to develop or obtain higher-detail data for non-sampled areas within an interpolated output.


Techniques for Spatial Analysis and Visualization of Benthic Mapping Data
Describes spatial concepts important to data analysis, such as scale, interpolation, and data format

Tools and Techniques for the Acquisition of Estuarine Benthic Habitat Data
Examines the various technologies available for benthic mapping and provides guidance for collecting source data for mapping

Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard
Provides a comprehensive national framework for organizing information about coasts and oceans and their living systems