Remote Sensing for Environmental Assessment
Information and data acquired via remote sensing can complement or underpin existing ground-based environmental assessment and/or monitoring programs.
Data obtained this way may be combined with other geo-referenced datasets within a Geographic Information System to establish links between geochemical, hydrological or geophysical drivers of environmental change, hence providing a powerful tool to inform decision making processes.
For example, Submarine Groundwater Discharge (SGD) may be a powerful driver for nutrient enrichment of coastal waters, but due to its spatially and temporally heterogeneous nature, location of sources and constraints to their geographical extent might be prohibitively expensive to carry out over significant sections of coastline by ground-based monitoring programs. However, thermal remote sensing can be used as an affordable first step in the assessment and geographical constraint of SGD sources.
Coupling thermal data using spatial correlation analysis within a GIS to link the remote identification of coastal SGD sites by satellite to geomorphologic and hydrological features on land acting as potential drivers of groundwater flow into the sea, with appropriate in-situ verification using radiochemical techniques, might constitute the basis for an affordable and regionally synthetic approach that links land derived environmental stressors to environmental health responses at sea.
In turn, this set of tools may constitute a powerful aid in establishing the framework for environmental monitoring and assessment programs aiming to support ecosystem management policy.
Research within this theme is organized around 5 main questions:
- Can SGD sites be successfully mapped at regional scale using remotely acquired thermal imagery in a cost effective way?
- What is the geographical extent of different SGD sources and their relative importance as ecosystem-level components of a particular coastline?
- How important is SGD within the ensemble of environmental stressors affecting a particular section of the coastline?
- How may GIS integrated datasets incorporating thermal remote sensing for SGD be used to inform and constrain ground-based research and monitoring operations aiming to assess its ecosystem-level effects?
- Is there a trans-boundary (be it political, regulatory or institutional) nature to SGD spatial extent and if so, does the environmental regulatory and monitoring framework in place need to be adapted accordingly?