Chlorophyll-a (chl-a) is considered as a primary indicator for water quality and foods for oyster growth in Apalachicola estuarine ecosystem. Assessment of chl-a concentration variation in response to river inflow is important for estuarine environmental research and management. In this study, remote sensing analysis has been conducted to evaluate the effects of river inflow on chlorophyll concentrations in Apalachicola Bay of Florida in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. A remote sensing model for chl-a was improved and applied to map spatial distributions of chl-a by using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) 250-m resolution imageries in high-flow and low-flow seasons in 2001 and 2008. Chl-a values approximately ranged from the minimum 6 μg/l to the maximum 29 μg/l in the study period. Maximum chl-a concentration in high-flow season was almost twice above that in low-flow season. The averaged mean and minimum chl-a level in the high-flow season were approximately 42 and 28 % higher than those in low-flow season, respectively. The remote sensing mapping of chl-a was able to show spatial variations of chl-a in the entire bay under different flow conditions, which indicated its advantage over the traditional field data sampling for monitoring water quality over a large area of estuary. The MODIS 250-m remote sensing regression model presented from this study can be used to support monitoring and assessment of the spatial chl-a distribution in the bay for environmental research and management in Apalachicola Bay.
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