EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Mapping seagrass and water depths using Sentinel-2

Katja Kuhwald1, Philipp Held2, Florian Gausepohl2, Jens Schneider von Deimling2, and Natascha Oppelt1
Katja Kuhwald et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany
  • 2Institute of Geosciences, Kiel University, Kiel, Germany

Seagrass meadows cover large benthic areas of the Baltic Sea, but eutrophication and climate change imply declining seagrass coverage. Apart from acoustic methods and traditional diver mappings, optical remote sensing techniques allow for mapping seagrass. Optical satellite analyses of seagrass mapping may supplement acoustic methods in shallow coastal waters with observations that are more frequent and have a larger spatial coverage.

In the clear Greek Mediterranean Sea, Sentinel-2 was already applied successfully to detect bathymetry and seagrass meadows. We are now testing whether Sentinel-2 data are also suitable for analysing the sublittoral in the turbid waters of the Baltic Sea. We focus on an extensive shallow water area near Kiel/Germany. Based on Sentinel-2 data, we analyse water depth and differentiate between seagrass covered and bare sandy ground. We derive these parameters using empirical and process-based models. First results show that Sentinel-2 allows to determine water depths up to 4 m (RMSE ~ 0.2 m). Comparisons with LiDAR water depths show that inaccuracies increase in overgrown areas. Our study also shows that the atmospheric correction algorithm influences sublittoral ground mappings with Sentinel-2 data. For instance, the absolute water depths of the process-based modelling differ up to 2.5 m on average depending on the atmospheric correction algorithm (ACOLITE, Sen2Cor, iCOR).

Comparing Sentinel-2 seagrass classifications with diver mappings and aerial imagery emphasises that empiric approaches provide plausible sublittoral ground classifications up to approximately 4 m water depth. Combining these results with seagrass mappings based on acoustic measurements (deeper than 4 m water) provides a synthesised sublittoral classification map of the study area up to the present growth limit of seagrass (~ 7 m in the study area).

The Baltic Sea is considered as a very turbid environment, nevertheless we show that satellite-based remote sensing has a great potential for shedding light into the  "white ribbon". The spatial coverage and temporal resolution of the analysed Sentinel-2 data increases the knowledge about the occurrence of seagrass and its spatio-temporal dynamics. Nevertheless, the influence of the selected atmospheric correction approach on the results shows that further research in remote sensing is necessary to assess seagrass meadows reliably.

How to cite: Kuhwald, K., Held, P., Gausepohl, F., Schneider von Deimling, J., and Oppelt, N.: Mapping seagrass and water depths using Sentinel-2, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-8451,, 2020


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