The Dark Side of the Marsh: Forecasting Marsh Health in Alabama

Category: Detecting Land Cover Change & Disturbances
Project Team: Mobile Bay Ecological Forecasting and Water Resources II
Team Location: Mobile County Health Department – Mobile, Alabama

MODIS eight day composite NDVI images of study area captured by Aqua/Terra Satellites January-September 2014. NDVI analyses are useful in pinpointing areas of stressed vegetation. Image Credit: Mobile Bay Ecological Forecasting and Water Resources II Team

MODIS eight day composite NDVI images of study area captured by Aqua/Terra Satellites January-September 2014. NDVI analyses are useful in pinpointing areas of stressed vegetation. Image Credit: Mobile Bay Ecological Forecasting and Water Resources II Team

Authors:
Darius Hixon
Austin Clark
Tyler Lynn
Manoela Rosa

Mentors/Advisors:
Dr. Kenton Ross (NASA Langley Research Center)
Dr. Just Cebrian (Dauphin Island Sea Lab)
Dr. Bernard Eichold (Mobile County Health Department)

Past/Other Contributors:
Tyler Lynn (Center Lead)
Saranee Dutta
Vishal Arya
Jeanett Bosarge
Courtney Kirkham

Abstract:

The marshlands fringing Mobile and Baldwin counties collectively comprise one of the most dynamic ecosystems in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Coastal Alabama wetlands are an important ecological region providing a number of important ecosystem support services, such as breeding and nursing habitats, creating buffer zones for storm surge, and water filtration. However, many marsh areas have deteriorated in health and extent due to anthropogenic and natural stressors including nutrient pollution, turbidity, and urbanization. This study used NASA Earth observations to investigate the present and future health of wetlands in coastal Alabama. The datasets were derived from the U.S. Forest Service ForWarn Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which uses imagery captured by Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Additionally, data from Landsat satellites 5, 7, and 8 were used to provide higher resolution imagery over larger temporal scales to aid in land use and land cover classifications. The NDVI was then used in conjunction with data from the Coastal Change Analysis Program to classify marsh type, health, and extent over several decades. The data were then used for modeling of future marsh health using TerrSet Geospatial Monitoring and Modeling System Land Change Modeler software. Collectively, these analyses provided a holistic assessment of current and future marsh health for select watersheds over wide temporal and spatial scales. The Alabama Coastal Foundation can use these results to more efficiently direct restoration efforts to the most critically impaired watersheds.

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