An Ocean Between Us: Monitoring Marine and Vegetation Health on Cocos Island

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Project Team: Costa Rica Oceans

Team Location:åÊMobile County Health Department ‰ÛÒ Mobile, Alabama

University of Georgia ‰ÛÒ Athens, Georgia

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Dionne Blanks

Yu Chuan Shan

Farnaz Bayat

Samantha Darring

Elaina Gonsoroski

Andrew Knight

Manasi Parkhi


Dr. Marguerite Madden (University of Georgia)

Dr. Deepak Mishra (University of Georgia)

Dr. Cedric Fichot (Boston University)

Joe Spruce (Science Systems & Applications, Inc.)

Past or Other Contributors:

Christopher Cameron

Tyler Lynn

Steve Padgett-Vasquez

Caren Remillard

Land cover classification using Landsat 8 OLI imagery (2016) and total suspended sediments estimation using Envisat MERIS imagery (2006) for the Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Image Credit: Costa Rica Oceans Team


The Isla del Coco Marine Reserve off the coast of Costa Rica is experiencing several environmental challenges including rising sea surface temperature (SST), coral reef bleaching, coastal erosion, and loss of cloud coverage above its cloud forest. These challenges threaten not only the well-being of vegetation and marine ecosystems, but also the national park’s infrastructure. Therefore, this project aimed to provide a better understanding of the problem by conducting time series analysis on changes in vegetation on the island, SST, total suspended sediments (TSS), and biophysical parameters in the surrounding ocean. Satellite data from Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI), Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) were collected for the period March 2002 to October 2016 to analyze vegetation health and cloud forest coverage and its impact on vegetation. NetCDF data products of SST, remote sensing reflectance, and inherent optical properties were converted to raster, and windows representing the study area were applied to extract data for trend analysis. MERIS level 2 products were used in combination with products derived from Sentinel-2 level 1 data to create a time series analysis ranging from 2002 to 2016 for TSS. Results of this project are important for Sistema Nacional de ́reas de ConservaciÌ_n de Costa Rica, Embassy of Costa Rica to the United States, and the Ministry of Environment and Energy-Water Directorate to make informed decisions to protect the marine reserve.

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