Multi-sensor satellite and in situ monitoring of phytoplankton development in a eutrophic-mesotrophic lake

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Phytoplankton indicated by its photosynthetic pigment chlorophyll-a is an important pointer on lake ecology and a regularly monitored parameter within the European Water Framework Directive. Along with eutrophication and global warming cyanobacteria gain increasing importance concerning human health aspects. Optical remote sensing may support both the monitoring of horizontal distribution of phytoplankton and cyanobacteria at the lake surface and the reduction of spatial uncertainties associated with limited water sample analyses. Temporal and spatial resolution of using only one satellite sensor, however, may constrain its information value. To discuss the advantages of a multi-sensor approach the sensor-independent, physically based model MIP (Modular Inversion and Processing System) was applied at Lake Kummerow, Germany, and lake surface chlorophyll-a was derived from 33 images of five different sensors (MODIS-Terra, MODIS-Aqua, Landsat 8, Landsat 7 and Sentinel-2A). Remotely sensed lake average chlorophyll-a concentration showed a reasonable development and varied between 2.3 ± 0.4 and 35.8 ± 2.0 mg·m− 3 from July to October 2015. Match-ups between in situ and satellite chlorophyll-a revealed varying performances of Landsat 8 (RMSE: 3.6 and 19.7 mg·m− 3), Landsat 7 (RMSE: 6.2 mg·m− 3), Sentinel-2A (RMSE: 5.1 mg·m− 3) and MODIS (RMSE: 12.8 mg·m− 3), whereas an in situ data uncertainty of 48% needs to be respected. The temporal development of an index on harmful algal blooms corresponded well with the cyanobacteria biomass development during summer months. Satellite chlorophyll-a maps allowed to follow spatial patterns of chlorophyll-a distribution during a phytoplankton bloom event. Wind conditions mainly explained spatial patterns. Integrating satellite chlorophyll-a into trophic state assessment resulted in different trophic classes. Our study endorsed a combined use of satellite and in situ chlorophyll-a data to alleviate weaknesses of both approaches and to better characterise and understand phytoplankton development in lakes.




Dörnhöfer, K., Klinger, P., Heege, T., & Oppelt, N. (2018). Multi-sensor satellite and in situ monitoring of phytoplankton development in a eutrophic-mesotrophic lake. Science of the Total Environment, 612, 1200–1214.

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