Tracking the Effect of Algal Mats on Coral Bleaching Using Remote Sensing

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Sawyer H Johnson1, Nehal Idris1, Hesham Mohamed El-Askary2 and Mohammed Ali B Qurban3, (1)Chapman University, Orange, CA, United States, (2)Chapman Univ, Orange, CA, United States, (3)King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Manager, Marine Studies Section Center for Environment and Water, Dhanran, Saudi Arabia
Benthic habitats rely on relatively stable environmental conditions for survival. The introduction of algal mats into an ecosystem can have a notable effect on the livelihood of organisms such as coral reefs by causing changes in the biogeochemistry of the surrounding water. Increasing levels of acidity and new competition for sunlight caused by congregations of cyanobacteria essentially starve coral reefs of natural resources. These changes are particularly prevalent in waters near quickly developing population centers, such as the ecologically diverse Arabian Gulf. While ground-truthing studies to determine the extensiveness of coral death proves useful on a microcosmic level, new ventures in remote sensing research allow scientists to utilize satellite data to track these changes on a broader scale. Satellite images acquired from Landsat 5, 1987, Landsat 7, 2000, and Landsat 8, 2013 along with higher resolution IKONOS data are digitally analyzed in order to create spectral libraries for relevant benthic types, which in turn can be used to perform supervised classifications and change detection analyses over a larger area. The supervised classifications performed over the three scenes show five significant marine-related classes, namely coral, mangroves, macro-algae, and seagrass, in different degrees of abundance, yet here we focus only on the algal mats impact on corals bleaching. The change detection analysis is introduced to study see the degree of algal mats impact on coral bleaching over the course of time with possible connection to the local meteorology and current climate scenarios.