Assessing Water Quality Compliance for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area using Earth Observation Data

Assessing Water Quality Compliance for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area using Earth Observation Data

Tue, 09/07/2013 - 10:00

About the Presenter

Dr Vittorio Brando
Dr Vittorio Brando is a Principal Research Scientist at the Environmental Earth Observation Program of CSIRO Land & Water in Canberra, where he leads the  Remote Sensing of Aquatic Ecosystems Research Team.
Vittorio's current research is focused on remote sensing of coastal waters with the aim of enabling a better understanding of environmental processes of coastal systems through the translation the remote sensing data into relevant information for decision makers or other scientific and non scientific end-users.
His main interests include optical oceanography in estuarine and coastal systems coupled with algorithm development for the retrieval of water quality parameters from ocean colour data.
Vittorio leads the satellite water quality component of the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program, as well as the IMOS Satellite Remote Sensing Ocean Colour facility




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To effectively inform and support the management of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage area, accurate and spatially comprehensive water quality information is required. To meet the environmental reporting needs of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), it was necessary to ensure accurate retrieval of water quality variables from satellite imagery. These time series were subsequently translated into management relevant water quality information.
In-situ optical measurements of the coastal waters in the GBR have shown highly variable inherent and apparent optical properties resulting in low accuracy for the global ocean colour algorithms in these waters. To enable a reliable and valid mapping of water quality variables we applied physics-based and regionally parameterised coastal ocean colour algorithms to spectral data of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS).
GBRMPA released specific water quality guidelines in 2009 providing threshold levels for environmental reporting of the Marine Park. The assessment of the exceedance of water quality guidelines using remote sensing data was implemented for the Reef Rescue Marine Monitoring Program for two key water quality variables: total suspended solids as an indicator of water clarity and a proxy for resuspension or catchment sediment delivery; and chlorophyll as an indicator of phytoplankton biomass and a proxy for nutrient availability.
In 2009-2011 chlorophyll concentrations exceeded the water quality guidelines thresholds for larger portions of the GBR Lagoon than in previous years, reflecting higher primary productivity due to larger flow conditions in most of the catchments in the GBR and associated nutrient delivery.


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