Satellites take a critical look at coastal dead zones

Satellites take a critical look at coastal dead zones

The algal bloom on a Chinese beach is representative of massive algal blooms that eventually leach oxygen from the water, creating dead zones. Credit: Roshan Chen, Michigan State University

The periphery dead zone is as bad as it looks, and not having information about the range and trajectory of the dead zones is worse. However, scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) have discovered a bird’s eye method for predicting where, when and for how long dead zones will remain across large coastal areas.

said Yingjie Li, who did the Ph.D. work. Student at MSU’s Center for System Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.

Dead zones – technically known as hypoxic ones – are bodies of water deteriorated to the point where aquatic life He cannot survive due to low oxygen levels. It is mainly a problem with coastal areas where the fertilizer runoff is fed Algae blooms, which then dies, sinks to the bottom of the water and decomposes. This decay eats away at the oxygen dissolved in the water, suffocating living life such as fish and other organisms that make up the living, vibrant water.

Dead zones can be difficult to identify and track, and are usually noticed by water samples. But as stated in Remote environment sensingScientists have come up with a new way to use satellite views to understand what’s going on in the ocean depths. They used the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River as an experimental site.

The group supplemented the data from the water samples in various ways using satellite imagery over time. In addition to predicting the size of hypoxic zones, the study provides additional information about where, when and for how long hypoxic zones persist in greater detail, and enables hypoxic zones to be modeled in near real time.

Satellites take a critical look at coastal dead zones

This map shows the frequency of hypoxia measured as the percentage of time with detection of hypoxia during the summer in 2014. Credit: Michigan State University Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability

Since 1995, at least 500 coastal dead zones have been reported near coasts covering a combined area larger than the UK, endangering fisheries, recreation and the public health of the seas. Climate change is likely to worsen hypoxia.

The research group points to the need to start a global coastal monitoring network to collect and share data to better understand, predict, and communicate changing coastlines. At the moment, this data is hard to come by. And the stakes are even higher, because fertilizer applied to a field can become runoff in one part of a body of water miles away. The group suggests that a communication coupling framework, which enables understanding of human and natural interactions near and far, would be useful in seeing the big picture of the problem.

“The damage to our coastal waters is a distant coupling problem that extends far beyond dead zones– Remote places that use excessive fertilizers to produce food and even remote places that require food. Thus, it is critical that we take a holistic view while using new methods to gain real understanding,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and Director of CSIS.

Besides, Dr. Lee and Liu write “Satellite Prediction of Coastal Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.” Samuel Robinson and Lan Nguyen of the University of Calgary.

more information:
Yingjie Li et al, Satellite Prediction of Coastal Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, Remote environment sensing (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2022.113346

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