Volume 72

A Geospatial Approach to Quantifying Stranded Sargassum Seaweed Using Drones

Baldwin, K; H.A. Oxenford; J. Weekes
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 253-254

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


Mass strandings of pelagic Sargassum on beaches across the Caribbean have become the 'new normal' and efforts to manage the negative environmental, social and economic impacts now rank among the priority issues to be solved across the region. To better understand the ecological impacts, develop appropriate strategies to respond to inundations, and assess the viability of entrepreneurial businesses using Sargassum, requires standardized information on the locations and quantity of sargassum strandings across the region. To date there are no standard monitoring protocols in place for quantifying stranded Sargassum and limited resources available for sustaining time-consuming, conventional quantification methods using transects and quadrats on multiple beaches. In this study we test and compare the use of ‘off-the-shelf’ recreational drones together with photogrammetry mapping software to easily obtain and process high resolution aerial imagery. Remote sensing and standard geospatial techniques are then leveraged to map, classify and quantify the volume of stranded Sargassum. This research was conducted in Barbados during the summer of 2019, under different weather conditions, different beach morphologies and different drone flight parameters to determine the most suitable methods. We use these results to provide a first draft protocol for monitoring Sargassum strandings. The use of online collaboration tools could enable this geospatial framework to be rolled out as a standard protocol across the Caribbean with minimal training to obtain, process and share Sargassum information regionally in near real-time.

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