Lebrasse, Marie Cindy, Blake A. Schaeffer, Megan M. Coffer, Peter J. Whitman, Richard C. Zimmerman, Victoria J. Hill, Kazi A. Islam, Jiang Li, and Christopher L. Osburn. 2022. “Temporal Stability of Seagrass Extent, Leaf Area, and Carbon Storage in St. Joseph Bay, Florida: A Semi-Automated Remote Sensing Analysis.” Estuaries and Coasts . doi: 10.1007/s12237-022-01050-4.
Seagrasses are globally recognized for their contribution to blue carbon sequestration. However, accurate quantification of their carbon storage capacity remains uncertain due, in part, to an incomplete inventory of global seagrass extent and assessment of its temporal variability. Furthermore, seagrasses are undergoing significant decline globally, which highlights the urgent need to develop change detection techniques applicable to both the scale of loss and the spatial complexity of coastal environments. This study applied a deep learning algorithm to a 30-year time series of Landsat 5 through 8 imagery to quantify seagrass extent, leaf area index (LAI), and belowground organic carbon (BGC) in St. Joseph Bay, Florida, between 1990 and 2020. Consistent with previous field-based observations regarding stability of seagrass extent throughout St. Joseph Bay, there was no temporal trend in seagrass extent (23 ± 3 km2, τ = 0.09, p = 0.59, n = 31), LAI (1.6 ± 0.2, τ = -0.13, p = 0.42, n = 31), or BGC (165 ± 19 g C m−2, τ = - 0.01, p = 0.1, n = 31) over the 30-year study period. There were, however, six brief declines in seagrass extent between the years 2004 and 2019 following tropical cyclones, from which seagrasses recovered rapidly. Fine-scale interannual variability in seagrass extent, LAI, and BGC was unrelated to sea surface temperature or to climate variability associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation or the North Atlantic Oscillation. Although our temporal assessment showed that seagrass and its belowground carbon were stable in St. Joseph Bay from 1990 to 2020, forecasts suggest that environmental and climate pressures are ongoing, which highlights the importance of the method and time series presented here as a valuable tool to quantify decadal-scale variability in seagrass dynamics. Perhaps more importantly, our results can serve as a baseline against which we can monitor future change in seagrass communities and their blue carbon.