Cyanobacteria blooms in three eutrophic basins of the Great Lakes: a comparative analysis using satellite remote sensing

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Blooms of harmful cyanobacteria (cyanoHABs) were mapped for three eutrophic basins (western basin of Lake Erie, WBLE; Green Bay, Lake Michigan, GB; and Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron, SB) in the Great Lakes from 2002 to 2013 using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) ocean colour imagery. These blooms were examined in relationship to basic meteorological and environmental parameters. Annual cyanoHAB extent trends were generated using two modified remote-sensing approaches. The first approach was a modified bio-optical chlorophyll retrieval algorithm enhanced with empirical relationships to estimate water column cyanoHABs (MCH), whereas the second approach uses near-infrared (NIR) reflectance to quantify the surface scums of cyanoHABs (SSI). The development and application of the SSI are unique products in the Great Lakes and may have generic application to ecological and public health issues. Satellite-derived cyanoHAB estimates agreed well with in situ observations (89% accuracy). The annual cyanoHAB trends (MCH and SSI) for WBLE, SB, and GB were not similar for the 2002–2013 analysis period. A recent trend of increasing cyanoHABs was noted in WBLE but not in GB or SB. Moreover, extensive and persistent surface scums were observed in WBLE but not in GB or SB. Meteorological parameters were similar among the basins; however, significant differences in spring discharge of the dominant river were observed among basins. Spring discharge was a significant predictor of cyanoHAB occurrence in WBLE but not in GB and SB. Wind-induced sediment re-suspension events were common during the bloom period in WBLE but not in GB or SB and these events were highly correlated with cyanoHAB occurrence. The differences among basins in the role of riverine discharge and re-suspension suggest local factors are more important than regional factors in controlling cyanoHAB dynamics within these three basins in the Great Lakes.

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Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1080/01431161.2016.1207265

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International Journal of Remote Sensing