Saccomanno Vienna R.

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Vienna R.

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  • Article
    CubeSats show persistence of bull kelp refugia amidst a regional collapse in California
    (Elsevier, 2023-03-11) Cavanaugh, Katherine C. ; Cavanaugh, Kyle C. ; Pawlak, Camille C. ; Bell, Tom W. ; Saccomanno, Vienna R.
    Bull kelp populations in northern California declined drastically in response to the 2014–2016 marine heatwave, sea star wasting disease, and subsequently large increases in herbivorous purple urchin populations. Despite the regional kelp forest collapse, there were small, remnant populations where bull kelp was able to survive. Moderate resolution satellites (i.e., Landsat) have been important for creating long-term, large-scale time series of bull kelp forests, however, these have been shown to underestimate or entirely exclude refugia due to their low densities and proximity to the coastline. While measurements from Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are spatially detailed, they are temporally limited and difficult to collect over regional scales. The development of CubeSat constellations has enabled a workaround for these tradeoffs, with global imagery available near-daily at meter-scale.We developed a method for mapping bull kelp canopy across the different sensor cohorts in the PlanetScope constellation. This required correcting surface reflectance measurements to account for differences in the spectral response functions among the sensors and leveraging the temporal frequency of PlanetScope data to increase the automation of classifying kelp canopy in imagery with increased noise. Using the PlanetScope derived kelp canopy extents, we identified locations where bull kelp refugia have persisted in northern California. We found that bull kelp refugia occupied about 2% of the total available habitat in the region and about 9.4% of the average canopy area observed prior to 2014. These areas may be critical to the success of kelp forest re-establishment in northern California, which increases their importance for ongoing monitoring, conservation, and restoration efforts.•Developed the first bull kelp canopy time series from high resolution CubeSat data.•CubeSats can effectively detect kelp canopy at low population abundance and density.•Refugia persisted during historically low kelp abundance in northern California.