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General Biotope Map

The general biotope maps produced by MAREANO shows regions with similar communities of animals living on the seabed, in a similar physical environment. These maps give an overview of the general distribution of different biotopes and are not focussed on any particular species.

To produce full coverage maps of the distribution of general biotopes, as required by management, predictive modelling techniques are used. These models use information on the characteristics and distribution of biological communities (based on visual documentation at MAREANO stations) and combine this information with physical characteristics of the seabed identified by terrain analysis and geological interpretation. Since 2014, when oceanographic data first became available to MAREANO, these data have also been incorporated in biotope modelling. The figure below shows the coverage of biotope mapping in MAREANO to date. Further information on the production of biotope maps is available here.

All MAREANO biotope maps currently published on Biotope maps have been separately produced for 4 areas: Barents Sea, Troms II and Nordland VII, Nordland VI, Mid-Norwegian Shelf. Some of these maps are already updated from previous versions. Work on production of seamless (unified) biotope maps across all areas is ongoing.

How are general biotope maps made?

MAREANO uses multivariate statistics and spatial modelling techniques for the classification, modelling and prediction of biotope distribution. By identifying environmental variables (depth, geology, oceanography) relevant to the distribution of benthic communities we are able to select predictor variables that allow us to build a spatial model and use it to predict between video observations to produce full-coverage biotope maps.

MAREANO has refined the methods used for spatial prediction of biotopes over the years since the first map for Tromsøflaket was produced in 2008, testing various methods for classification and modelling as well as improving methods for map validation. A generic workflow for biotope classification, modelling and prediction is summarized in the figure below. This work is a collaboration between IMR and NGU.

Further details on the biotope mapping process (until 2017) are given in Chapter 3 of Thorsnes et al. 2015. An overview of modelling and the resulting maps produced for each area are given in technical summary documents and related articles. This includes updated methods used for the 2019 modelling in the Barents Sea which will form the basis of further work towards production of seamless (harmonised) biotope maps for all areas.


Biotope map


Technical summaries of general biotope modelling and prediction are available for the following areas:
Information about the methods used for modelling of general biotopes for Troms II and Nordland VII (2012) is included in the following publication:
Elvenes et al. (2014) An evaluation of compiled single-beam bathymetry data as a basis for regional sediment and biotope mapping. ICES JMS 71(4), 867-881
These older peer-reviewed articles provide background on methods employed for production of MAREANO’s first biotope maps. Whilst some of the methods still apply, the maps for this area (Tromsøflaktet) have now been revised and updated:
Buhl-Mortensen et al. (2009) Prediction of benthic biotopes on a Norwegian offshore bank using a combination of multivariate analysis and GIS classification. ICES JMS 66(9), 2026-2032
Dolan et al, 2009 Developing seabed nature-type maps offshore Norway: initial results from the MAREANO programme. Norwegian Journal of Geology 89, 17-28.


Margaret Dolan Marin

Margaret Dolan

Geological Survey of Norway (NGU)
marine geologist/Researcher
+47 73 90 42 67
P Mortensen

Pål Buhl-Mortensen

Institute of Marine Research
+47 484 03 792