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Detecting zooplankton streaks in salt lakes using high resolution water surface colour processing

Research project T4/DD/47 (Research action T4)

Persons :

Description :

Zooplankton is an obligatory feed for rearing juvenile seawater fish. Knowledge about its distribution and seasonal variability is therefore a key factor to predict more accurately the population dynamics of commercially important fish species and to establish the potential of this determinant feed in aquaculture operations.
Debris and passive states of zooplankton have been known to accumulate in streaks of tens to thousands of meters long, floating on the water surface. These streaks offer quantifiable information on a mesoscale. Such information would complement what we know on the biology of zooplankton on a microscale and would provide a basis for cost/benefit analyses of regional aquaculture operations.

There is a wealth of application developments in processing satellite pictures. Detecting zooplankton streaks is a particular challenge as its application characteristics position it on the fringe of the main developments with respects to a number of different aspects: the colour spectrum of interest, the resolution required, the mode of operation and the position of the sites of interest.
Most related application developments have been concentrated on studying phytoplankton in the seas. The seawater colour processing has focused evidently on the greenish colour spectrum generated by chlorophyll. Zooplankton, instead, is characterised by its general lack of chlorophyll and the more common reddish colour spectrum generated by carotenoid and affiliated compounds. The applications for detecting "red tide", a blooming of a particular flagellate whose bacterial load causes food indigestion in consumers of shell fish, is the rare exception to the rule.
Furthermore, these developments pertained to wide views of the oceans to study this biomass on a macroscale. We, instead, are interested on a derivative of the biomass on a mesoscale. This requires a resolution on the borderline of what most commercially available sensors provide.
As the meteorological conditions of the high seas do not allow, in general, the accumulation of zooplankton into discernible streaks we are interested in the water surfaces of lakes, instead. These lakes have been identified but not systematically studied. Also, most developments are geared towards monitoring more global changes within the time frame of several seasons. We, instead, are interested in detecting phenomena that are only relevant within a period of days as winds and currents disperse or beach these buoyant clouds of organic material. A similar mode of operation is demonstrated by oil spill detection applications.

Specific objectives

1. To determine the technical feasibility of such a detection system based on present or near future satellite sensors;
2. To prepare a pilot study for such a system.


The tasks can be broken down as follows:
1. Overview of the relevant literature;
2. Rough draft design for a streak detection system.

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