Coffer, Megan M., David D. Graybill, Peter J. Whitman, Blake A. Schaeffer, Wilson B. Salls, Richard C. Zimmerman, Victoria Hill, Marie Cindy Lebrasse, Jiang Li, Darryl J. Keith, James Kaldy, Phil Colarusso, Gary Raulerson, David Ward, and W. Judson Kenworthy. 2023. “Providing a Framework for Seagrass Mapping in United States Coastal Ecosystems Using High Spatial Resolution Satellite Imagery.” Journal of Environmental Management 337:117669. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.117669.
Seagrasses have been widely recognized for their ecosystem services, but traditional seagrass monitoring approaches emphasizing ground and aerial observations are costly, time-consuming, and lack standardization across datasets. This study leveraged satellite imagery from Maxar’s WorldView-2 and WorldView-3 high spatial resolution, commercial satellite platforms to provide a consistent classification approach for monitoring seagrass at eleven study areas across the continental United States, representing geographically, ecologically, and climatically diverse regions. A single satellite image was selected at each of the eleven study areas to correspond temporally to reference data representing seagrass coverage and was classified into four general classes: land, seagrass, no seagrass, and no data. Satellite-derived seagrass coverage was then compared to reference data using either balanced agreement, the Mann-Whitney U test, or the Kruskal-Wallis test, depending on the format of the reference data used for comparison. Balanced agreement ranged from 58% to 86%, with better agreement between reference- and satellite-indicated seagrass absence (specificity ranged from 88% to 100%) than between reference- and satellite-indicated seagrass presence (sensitivity ranged from 17% to 73%). Results of the Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests demonstrated that satellite-indicated seagrass percentage cover had moderate to large correlations with reference-indicated seagrass percentage cover, indicative of moderate to strong agreement between datasets. Satellite classification performed best in areas of dense, continuous seagrass compared to areas of sparse, discontinuous seagrass and provided a suitable spatial representation of seagrass distribution within each study area. This study demonstrates that the same methods can be applied across scenes spanning varying seagrass bioregions, atmospheric conditions, and optical water types, which is a significant step toward developing a consistent, operational approach for mapping seagrass coverage at the national and global scales. Accompanying this manuscript are instructional videos describing the processing workflow, including data acquisition, data processing, and satellite image classification. These instructional videos may serve as a management tool to complement field- and aerial-based mapping efforts for monitoring seagrass ecosystems.