Can seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and sand bottoms be mapped from space? A Dominican Republic case study

Joseph J. Luczkovich, Thomas W. Wagner, Jeffrey L. Michalek, Richard W. Stoffle

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


In order to monitor changes caused by local and global human actions to a coral reef ecosystem, we `sea-truthed' a natural color Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) image prepared for a coastal region of the northwestern Dominican Republic and recorded average water depth, precise positions, and bottom types (seagrass n = 15 sites, coral reef n = 10 sites, and sand n = 6 sites). There were no significant differences in depth for the bottom type groups, which ranged from 0-16.1 m (0-52.7 ft). Sand > seagrass > coral in mean radiance for the three Landsat TM visible bands (TM 1, TM 2, TM 3); sand bottom sites had significantly greater radiance than seagrass and coral sites in TM 1 only. Mean radiance of seagrass and coral reef sites did not differ significantly in any band. A multivariate analysis of variance using all three bands gave similar results. A ratio of the green/blue bands (TM 2/TM 1) showed there was a spectral shift associated with increasing depth but not bottom type. Due to small-scale patchiness (<30 m×30 m), seagrass and coral areas were difficult to distinguish, but sandy areas can be mapped with this method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-816
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Issue numberpt 2
StatePublished - 1992
EventProceedings of the 1st Thematic Conference on Remote Sensing for Marine and Coastal Environments - New Orleans, LA, USA
Duration: Jun 15 1992Jun 17 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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