Challenges for mapping cyanotoxin patterns from remote sensing of cyanobacteria

Harmful Algae
By: , and 



Using satellite imagery to quantify the spatial patterns of cyanobacterial toxins has several challenges. These challenges include the need for surrogate pigments – since cyanotoxins cannot be directly detected by remote sensing, the variability in the relationship between the pigments and cyanotoxins – especially microcystins (MC), and the lack of standardization of the various measurement methods. A dual-model strategy can provide an approach to address these challenges. One model uses either chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) or phycocyanin (PC) collected in situ as a surrogate to estimate the MC concentration. The other uses a remote sensing algorithm to estimate the concentration of the surrogate pigment. Where blooms are mixtures of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic algae, PC should be the preferred surrogate to Chl-a. Where cyanobacteria dominate, Chl-a is a better surrogate than PC for remote sensing. Phycocyanin is less sensitive to detection by optical remote sensing, it is less frequently measured, PC laboratory methods are still not standardized, and PC has greater intracellular variability. Either pigment should not be presumed to have a fixed relationship with MC for any water body. The MC-pigment relationship can be valid over weeks, but have considerable intra- and inter-annual variability due to changes in the amount of MC produced relative to cyanobacterial biomass. To detect pigments by satellite, three classes of algorithms (analytic, semi-analytic, and derivative) have been used. Analytical and semi-analytical algorithms are more sensitive but less robust than derivatives because they depend on accurate atmospheric correction; as a result derivatives are more commonly used. Derivatives can estimate Chl-a concentration, and research suggests they can detect and possibly quantify PC. Derivative algorithms, however, need to be standardized in order to evaluate the reproducibility of parameterizations between lakes. A strategy for producing useful estimates of microcystins from cyanobacterial biomass is described, provided cyanotoxin variability is addressed.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Challenges for mapping cyanotoxin patterns from remote sensing of cyanobacteria
Series title Harmful Algae
DOI 10.1016/j.hal.2016.01.005
Volume 54
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam
Contributing office(s) Kansas Water Science Center, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 14 p.
First page 160
Last page 173
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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