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An Approach to Developing Numeric Water Quality Criteria for Coastal Waters Using the SeaWiFS Satellite Data Record

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 20:44 by Blake A. Schaeffer, James D. Hagy, Robyn N. Conmy, John C. Lehrter, Richard P. Stumpf
Human activities on land increase nutrient loads to coastal waters, which can increase phytoplankton production and biomass and associated ecological impacts. Numeric nutrient water quality standards are needed to protect coastal waters from eutrophication impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency determined that numeric nutrient criteria were necessary to protect designated uses of Florida’s waters. The objective of this study was to evaluate a reference condition approach for developing numeric water quality criteria for coastal waters, using data from Florida. Florida’s coastal waters have not been monitored comprehensively via field sampling to support numeric criteria development. However, satellite remote sensing had the potential to provide adequate data. Spatial and temporal measures of SeaWiFS OC4 chlorophyll-a (ChlRS-a, mg m–3) were resolved across Florida’s coastal waters between 1997 and 2010 and compared with in situ measurements. Statistical distributions of ChlRS-a were evaluated to determine a quantitative reference baseline. A binomial approach was implemented to consider how new data could be assessed against the criteria. The proposed satellite remote sensing approach to derive numeric criteria may be generally applicable to other coastal waters.