Paris, France: European Space Agency (ESA) rolled out CoastColour project. Stressing the need for information to help manage different ecosystems, more than 40 user organisations have already signed up to the project.
The project will help scientists develop techniques to take full advantage of the unique capabilities of the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) sensor on its Envisat satellite. It is now processing MERIS data with state-of-the-art techniques over 27 high-priority coastal regions selected by users worldwide. With a resolution of 300 m, MERIS provides the sharpest view of coastal waters to date, and includes spectral bands specially designed to characterise the complex mixing of pollutants, suspended sediments and phytoplankton typically found in coastal zones.
Arnold Dekker from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is working with CoastColour to develop techniques to monitor the health of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. “ESA is to be commended for supporting the use of Earth observation to help solve the management issues of these truly complex coastal aquatic ecosystems,” Dr Dekker said.
MERIS data are being used to monitor harmful algal booms along the west coast of South Africa in the Southern Benguela upwelling system. Red tides and algal blooms with extremely high phytoplankton concentrations frequently occur in the region’s bays, threatening fisheries and tourism.
Dr Stewart Bernard of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is developing systems aiming to integrate the satellite data with hydrodynamic models to monitor and predict harmful algal blooms operationally.