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High-resolution sonar data are necessary to map bottom substrate for habitat studies but are lacking over much of the continental shelf. With such data, areas covered by sediment can be distinguished from bedrock areas with an accuracy of ~90%. Without these data, the extent of sediment as thick as 10 m cannot be resolved, and estimates of the extent of rocky seafloor are exaggerated. A study area north of Anacapa Island in Southern California interpreted as a large rocky area after mapping with low-resolution seismic systems was found to have exposed rocky bottom in only 10% of the area when mapped with high-resolution, side-scan sonar. The area of rock was estimated using video-supervised, sonar-image classification of textural derivatives of the data calculated from gray-level co-occurrence matrices. The classification of soft bottom was found to be ~90% accurate using an independent data set, derived from seafloor sampling records. Two general types of rock exposure are observed—sparse linear outcrops of layered sedimentary rocks and more massive, rounded outcrop areas of volcanic rocks. The percentage of exposed rock in volcanic areas exceeded that in sedimentary rock areas by a factor of 5 in the study area north of Anacapa Island. South of Point Arguello, 80% of the shelf seafloor is underlain by sedimentary rock units. The percentage of area that is exposed, rocky-reef habitat may be greater in other areas of coastal seafloor if the bedrock is predominantly volcanic.

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