Kelp and Seagrass Mapping – 2022 – Hakai Airborne Coastal Observatory

The Hakai Institute Marine Habitat Mapping Program is focused on documenting the spatial changes and drivers in coastal marine ecosystems (kelp and eelgrass) at various spatial scales in British Columbia (local, regional and coast-wide). To study regional scale trends we are developing and refining methods for mapping species-specific kelp extent and biomass using high-resolution aerial imagery to inform the long-term collection of kelp distribution in British Columbia. Canopy-forming kelps are a critical component of many nearshore marine ecosystems, including those of British Columbia. The canopy kelps Nereocystis luetkeana (bull kelp) and Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp) form complex, three-dimensional habitat that supports a diversity of fish, invertebrates and marine mammals. Canopy kelps are also amongst the most productive primary producers on the planet, serving as an important source of carbon to coastal food webs. Like many other kelp species, canopy-forming kelps show high seasonal and interannual variability as their recruitment, growth and survival are influenced by a number of abiotic (e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrients, light) and biotic (e.g. grazing, intraspecific competition) drivers. As a result, kelp populations are expected to change in response to shifts in underlying environmental conditions associated with climate change. They may also shift in response to changes in the biotic community (e.g. sea otter recovery, sea star wasting disease) or human activities (e.g. sea urchin harvest, kelp harvest). Surveys conducted by the Hakai ACO are targeted to collect imagery during summer low tides when kelp biomass is at its highest. Low tide imagery is also necessary for mapping other nearshore habitats such as eelgrass. The high resolution of the aerial cameras permit the discrimination of different kelp species.

The Airborne Coastal Observatory (ACO) is a collaborative program led by the Hakai Institute with partners the University of Northern British Columbia and Kisik Aerial Surveying. The program offers rapid and accurate aerial observations of coastal ecosystems, from Icefields to Oceans. A Kisik Aerial Piper Navajo aircraft is packed with an array of integrated Earth imaging sensors and technology to provide highly visual and highly accurate data. Hakai’s Airborne Coastal Observatory was developed to map and monitor icefields to oceans by using a combination of airborne Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), high-resolution imagery, and hyperspectral imagery. Combined, the ACO sensors provide data to quantify changes in seasonal snow cover and glacier mass loss. The ACO is an aerial remote sensing platform used by the Hakai Institute to survey landscapes in detail. A Piper Navajo aircraft carries an array of integrated airborne mapping sensors installed to collect data in concert. The aircraft is operated and maintained by Kisik Aerial Surveys (Delta, BC). For more information on post processing, data quality assurance, software used, and summary of results please contact

Access and Use

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
Limitations: Appropriate credit must be given to Hakai Institute and the authors of the dataset.

Data and Resources



Dataset extent

Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Metadata Reference Date(s) January 17, 2023 (Revision)
January 18, 2023 (Publication)
Data Reference Date(s) July 29, 2022 (Creation)
November 30, 2022 (Publication)
Frequency of Update As Needed

Responsible Party 1
Hakai Institute ROR logo
  • Author
  • Custodian
  • Distributor
  • Owner
  • Point of Contact
  • Principal Investigator
  • Processor
  • Publisher
  • Resource Provider
  • Editor
  • Rights Holder

Field Value
Ocean Variables
  • Seagrass cover and composition
  • Macroalgal canopy cover and composition
Scope Dataset
Status Completed
Topic Category oceans
Maintenance Note Generated from
Spatial Extent { "coordinates": [ [ [ -128.6, 51.59 ], [ -128.0, 51.59 ], [ -128.0, 52.1 ], [ -128.6, 52.1 ], [ -128.6, 51.59 ] ] ], "type": "Polygon" }
North Bounding Latitude 52.1
South Bounding Latitude 51.59
East Bounding Longitude -128.0
West Bounding Longitude -128.6
Temporal Extent
Vertical Extent
Default Locale English