Macroalgae and Eelgrass Mapping in Great Bay Estuary Using AISA Hyperspectral Imagery


Increases in nitrogen concentration and declining eelgrass beds in Great Bay Estuary have been observed in the last decades. These two parameters are clear indicators of the impending eutrophication for New Hampshire’s estuaries. The NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) in collaboration with the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership adopted the assumption that eelgrass survival can be used as the target for establishing numeric water quality criteria for nutrients in NH’s estuaries. One of the hypotheses put forward regarding eelgrass decline is that an eutrophication response to nutrient increases in the Great Bay Estuary has been the proliferation of nuisance macroalgae, which has reduced eelgrass area in Great Bay Estuary. To determine the extent of this effect, mapping of eelgrass and nuisance macroalgae beds using hyperspectral imagery was suggested. A hyperspectral image was made by SpecTIR in August 2007 using an AISA Eagle sensor. The collected dataset was then used to map eelgrass and nuisance macroalgae throughout the Great Bay Estuary. Here we outline the procedure for mapping the macroalgae and eelgrass beds. Hyperspectral imagery was effective where known spectral signatures could be easily identified. Comprehensive eelgrass and macroalgae maps of the estuary could only be produced by combining hyperspectral imagery with groundtruth information and expert opinion. Macroalgae was predominantly located in areas where eelgrass formerly existed. Macroalgae mats have now replaced nearly 9% of the area formerly occupied by eelgrass in Great Bay.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Coastal Geotools 2009



Conference Date

Mar 2 - Mar 5, 2009

Publisher Place

Myrtle Beach, SC, USA


U.S. Geological Survey

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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