2023 journal article

Satellite and in situ cyanobacteria monitoring: Understanding the impact of monitoring frequency on management decisions

Journal of Hydrology.

By: N. Reynolds n, B. Schaeffer*, L. Guertault n & N. Nelson n

UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
14. Life Below Water (Web of Science; OpenAlex)
Source: ORCID
Added: February 1, 2024

Cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (cyanoHABs) in reservoirs can be transported to downstream waters via scheduled discharges. Transport dynamics are difficult to capture in traditional cyanoHAB monitoring, which can be spatially disparate and temporally discontinuous. The introduction of satellite remote sensing for cyanoHAB monitoring provides opportunities to detect where cyanoHABs occur in relation to reservoir release locations, like canal inlets. The study objectives were to assess (1) differences in reservoir cyanoHAB frequencies as determined by in situ and remotely sensed data and (2) the feasibility of using satellite imagery to identify conditions associated with release-driven cyanoHAB export. As a representative case, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Estuary (Florida, USA), which receives controlled releases from Lake Okeechobee, were examined. Both systems are impacted by cyanoHABs, and the St. Lucie Estuary experienced states of emergency for extreme cyanoHABs in 2016 and 2018. Using the European Space Agency's Sentinel-3 OLCI imagery processed with the Cyanobacteria Index (CIcyano), cyanoHAB frequencies across Lake Okeechobee from May 2016-April 2021 were compared to frequencies from in situ data. Strong agreement was observed in frequency rankings between the in situ and remotely sensed data in capturing intra-annual variability in bloom frequencies across Lake Okeechobee (Kendall's tau = 0.85, p-value = 0.0002), whereas no alignment was observed when evaluating inter-annual variation (Kendall's tau = 0, p-value = 1). Further, remotely sensed observations revealed that cyanoHABs were highly frequent near the inlet to the canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary in state-of-emergency years, a pattern not evident from in situ data alone. This study demonstrates how remote sensing can complement traditional cyanoHAB monitoring to inform reservoir release decision making.