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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership - NASA DEVELOP Projects

Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership

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NASA DEVELOP Projects

During 2015, APNEP partnered with a part of NASA’s Applied Science Program, called DEVELOP, on three projects focused on the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. The NASA DEVELOP program seeks to “address environmental and public policy issues through interdisciplinary research projects that apply the lens of NASA Earth observations to community concerns around the globe.”[1] Interns are brought on board to conduct these Earth science research projects and are mentored along the way by science advisors from NASA and partner agencies.

APNEP’s ecosystem-based management approach means that monitoring efforts determine whether the management plan needs to be altered in order to increase ecological improvement.  The Albemarle-Pamlico watershed covers an area of over 30,000 square miles which can make traditional monitoring strategies costly in terms of time and resources. In light of this obstacle, monitoring indicator metrics with model data and satellite imagery is an attractive option. The projects undertaken with the NASA DEVELOP program are helping APNEP to obtain a clearer picture of indicator metrics throughout the watershed.

Partner support for these projects came from APNEP, the USGS N.C. Water Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.

 

Project 1: Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Monitor Extent of Harmful Algal Blooms in the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary

The objective of this project was to map the spatial and temporal extent of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system over a ten-year timespan (2004-2014).  This project used ocean color data from Aqua MODIS to calculate levels of chlorophyll-a and cyanobacteria as a proxy for algae on a large scale. Basemaps of the study area were created from Landsat 1-8 imagery for all mapping products.

This data will complement the HAB point sampling data being collected by the USGS North Carolina Water Science Center by providing them with spatial extent of HABs throughout seasonal and climatic fluctuations.

 

Project 2: Evaluating the Application of NASA Earth Observations to Rapidly Detect Change in Wetland Types at a Regional Scale

 

The objective of this project was to monitor wetland extent and health over a fifteen-year timespan (2000-2015) in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. NASA’s Landsat 5, 7 and 8 were used to collect imagery from all for seasons during each year being evaluated, allowing the team to account for seasonal variation in tidal changes and vegetation health.

This data can be used to help make better-informed policy and management decisions in regards to wetland monitoring, protection and restoration in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuarine system. These methodologies could also be applied to any of the 28 National Estuary Programs in the U.S. as a way to evaluate wetland health and extent within a watershed.

 

Project 3: Update of NOAA C-CAP Wetland Delineation and Further Disaggregation of Land Use Classes using Remote Sensing

The objective of this project was to update the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) land-use classification technique within the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed. In addition to delineating wetland types, this project also focused on further disaggregating land cover types including crop varieties and invasive species. The team used Landsat 8 imagery and a combination of ground truthing techniques to create inputs for the model.

This data can be used to make better-informed policy and management decisions in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed in regards to land use. From the maps and methodology developed by the team, APNEP can continually update wetland types and explore the interconnectivity between wetland health and wetland type.

 

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