Mapping intertidal macrophytes in fjords in Southwest Greenland using Sentinel-2 imagery
New publication by Carlson, Daniel F; Vivó-Pons, Antoni; Treier, Urs A et al.
Changes in the distribution of coastal macrophytes in Greenland, and elsewhere in the Arctic are difficult to quantify as the region remains challenging to access and monitor. Satellite imagery, in particular Sentinel-2 (S2), may enable large-scale monitoring of coastal areas in Greenland but its use is impacted by the optically complex environments and the scarcity of supporting data in the region. Additionally, the canopies of the dominant macrophyte species in Greenland do not extend to the sea surface, limiting the use of indices that exploit the reflection of near-infrared radiation by vegetation due to its absorption by seawater. Three hypotheses are tested: I) 10-m S2 imagery and commonly used detection methods can identify intertidal macrophytes that are exposed at low tide in an optically complex fjord system in Greenland impacted by marine and land terminating glaciers; II) detached and floating macrophytes accumulate in patches that are sufficiently large to be detected by 10-m S2 images; III) iceberg scour and/or turbid meltwater runoff shape the spatial distribution of intertidal macroalgae in fjord systems with marine-terminating glaciers. The NDVI produced the best results in optically complex fjord systems in Greenland. 12 km2 of exposed intertidal macrophytes were identified in the study area at low tide. Floating mats of macrophytes ranged in area from 400 m2 to 326,800 m2 and were most common at the mouth of the fjord. Icebergs and turbidity appear to play a role in structuring the distribution of intertidal macrophytes and the retreat of marine terminating glaciers could allow macrophytes cover to expand. The challenges and solutions presented here apply to most fjords in Greenland and, therefore, the methodology may be extended to produce a Greenland-wide estimate of intertidal macrophytes.