The FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is exploring the use
of satellite imagery and computer software as a time- and
cost-saving alternative to manual seagrass mapping.
The Seagrass Integrated Mapping and Monitoring program was
developed to enable resource managers to track changes in the
distribution, abundance, and species composition of Florida
seagrass meadows. A statewide network of scientists and agencies
led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
pools seagrass data for use by Florida legislators, state agencies,
and other decision makers.
Since the first annual statewide seagrass "report card" in 2009,
the FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) has improved
the mapping and monitoring technology and developed the capability
to distribute imagery on the Internet. A significant obstacle to
the program has been the cost of conventional seagrass mapping, a
time-consuming manual process of interpreting aerial photography.
FWRI is investigating a promising alternative relying on satellite
imagery and software-assisted mapping.
Satellite imagery has the advantage of covering large areas
quickly, enhancing the ability to accurately monitor seagrass
habitats statewide and identify areas of seagrass loss. Several
commercial satellites now provide stock multispectral imagery at
improved pixel resolution (3 feet versus 100 feet a quarter-century
ago) and favorable cost, compared with conventional photography.
During recent years' production of seagrass maps, FWRI tested the
feasibility of the new mapping techniques in three areas for which
satellite imagery was available: Florida Bay, Tampa Bay, and Big
Bend. Seagrass scientists and managers, coastal resource management
agencies, environmental consultants, and recreational users all
stand to benefit from improved efficiencies in seagrass
FWRI now distributes new and historical aerial seagrass imagery
from the Marine Resource Aerial Imagery Database at http://atoll.floridamarine.org/mraid.
Currently available for download are modern digital datasets for
Springs Coast, Big Bend, Biscayne Bay, and the western Everglades,
as well as scanned and indexed aerial imagery of seafloors from the
1980s and 1990s. Additional datasets will be added as imagery
becomes available. Upon request, a GIS librarian can still burn
specific imagery to a DVD and mail it.
A computer equipped with Google Earth version 5 or higher can
download images from the Marine Resource Aerial Imagery Database at
The DATA tab offers a choice of compressed TIFF format for GIS
applications or JPEG2000 format for less rigorous needs.