Marsh canopy structure changes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Remote Sensing of Environment
By: , and 

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Abstract

Marsh canopy structure was mapped yearly from 2009 to 2012 in the Barataria Bay, Louisiana coastal region that was impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. Based on the previously demonstrated capability of NASA's UAVSAR polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (PolSAR) image data to map Spartina alterniflora marsh canopy structure, structure maps combining the leaf area index (LAI) and leaf angle distribution (LAD, orientation) were constructed for yearly intervals that were directly relatable to the 2010 LAI-LAD classification. The yearly LAI-LAD and LAI difference maps were used to investigate causes for the previously revealed dramatic change in marsh structure from prespill (2009) to postspill (2010, spill cessation), and the occurrence of structure features that exhibited abnormal spatial and temporal patterns. Water level and salinity records showed that freshwater releases used to keep the oil offshore did not cause the rapid growth from 2009 to 2010 in marsh surrounding the inner Bay. Photointerpretation of optical image data determined that interior marsh patches exhibiting rapid change were caused by burns and burn recovery, and that the pattern of 2010 to 2011 LAI decreases in backshore marsh and extending along some tidal channels into the interior marsh were not associated with burns. Instead, the majority of 2010 to 2011 shoreline features aligned with vectors displaying the severity of 2010 shoreline oiling from the DWH spill. Although the association is not conclusive of a causal oil impact, the coexistent pattern is a significant discovery. PolSAR marsh structure mapping provided a unique perspective of marsh biophysical status that enhanced detection of change and monitoring of trends important to management effectiveness.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Marsh canopy structure changes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Series title Remote Sensing of Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.rse.2016.08.001
Volume 186
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 8 p.
First page 350
Last page 357
Country United States
State Louisiana