Use of Thematic Mapper Imagery to Assess Water Quality, Trophic State, and Macrophyte Distributions in Massachusetts Lakes

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Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4016

By MARCUS C. WALDRON, PETER A. STEEVES, and JOHN T. FINN (Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)


During the spring and summer of 1996, 1997, and 1998, measurements of phytoplankton- chlorophyll concentration, Secchi disk transparency, and color were made at 97 Massachusetts lakes within 24 hours of Landsat Thematic Mapper imaging of the lakes in an effort to assess water quality and trophic state. Spatial distributions of floating, emergent, and submerged macrophytes were mapped in 49 of the lakes at least once during the 3-year period. The maps were digitized and used to assign pixels in the thematic mapper images to one of four vegetation cover classes-open water, 1­50 percent floating-and-emergent-vegetation cover, 51­100 percent floating-and-emergent-vegetation cover, and submerged vegetation at any density. The field data were collected by teams of U.S. Geological Survey and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management staff and by 76 volunteers. Side-by-side sampling by U.S. Geological Survey and volunteer field teams resulted in statistically similar chlorophyll determinations, Secchi disk readings, and temperature measurements, but concurrent color determinations were not similar, possibly due to contamination of sample bottles issued to the volunteers.

Attempts to develop predictive relations between phytoplankton-chlorophyll concentration, Secchi disk transparency, lake color, dissolved organic carbon, and various combinations of thematic mapper bands 1, 2, 3, and 4 digital numbers were unsuccessful, primarily because of the extremely low concentrations of chlorophyll in the lakes studied, and also because of the highly variable dissolved organic carbon concentrations.

Predictive relations were developed between Secchi disk transparency and phytoplankton-chlorophyll concentration, and between color and dissolved organic carbon concentration. Phytoplankton-chlorophyll concentration was inversely correlated with Secchi disk transparency during all three sampling periods. The relations were very similar in 1996 and 1997 and indicated that 62 to 67 percent of the variability in Secchi disk transparency could be explained by the chlorophyll concentration. Analysis of color and dissolved organic carbon concentrations in water samples collected by U.S. Geological Survey field teams in 1996­98 indicated that 91 percent of the variance in color in Massachusetts lakes can be explained by variations in dissolved organic carbon.

Areas of open-water, submerged vegetation, and two surface-vegetation-cover classes predicted from Thematic Mapper images acquired in the summer of 1996 closely matched the areas observed in a set of field observations. However, the same analysis applied to a set of data acquired in the summer of 1997 resulted in somewhat less reliable predictions, and an attempt to predict 1996 vegetation-cover areas using the relations developed in the 1997 analysis was unsuccessful.




Study Methods

Sampling and Analysis for Water-Quality Characteristics

Field Observations

Phytoplankton-Chlorophyll Concentration

Lake Color

Dissolved Organic Carbon Concentration

Analytical Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance of Volunteer Data

Thematic Mapper-Based Assessment of Water Quality and Trophic State

Secchi Disk Transparency and Phytoplankton-Chlorophyll Concentration

Lake Color and Dissolved Organic Carbon Concentration

Thematic Mapper-Based Assessment of Macrophyte Distributions

Field-Mapping of Macrophyte Distributions

Digitization and Processing of Field Maps

Image Interpretation

Observed Versus Predicted Macrophyte Distributions

1996 Predictions Based on 1996 Interpretations

1997 Predictions Based on 1997 Interpretations

1996 Predictions Based On 1997 Interpretations

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited





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