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Coral reef and seagrass coastal biomes have been shaped throughout geologic history by global-scale earth processes including geomorphological changes, climate change, and physical and chemical changes in seawater. Despite significant advances, several key questions remain unanswered due to technology limitations and the lack of coordinated and concurrent multi-disciplinary measurements. Understanding the productivity dynamics of these vulnerable nearshore environments is critical for assessing their current state and predicting their response to the effects of global climate change (e.g., sea level rise; changes in seawater chemistry and temperature).
Our proposed research objective is to determine the optimal spatial, temporal, and spectral resolutions for monitoring the productivity dynamics of these optically-complex biomes. Repeated high-resolution airborne observations of diurnal and seasonal variation are being made in the Florida Keys using different low-flying long-duration Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) equipped with complementary hyperspectral sensors. Simultaneous in-water measurements and satellite data are collected during the airborne campaigns. We predict that our coordinated inter-disciplinary earth science mission will provide new insights into coastal benthic productivity dynamics, and new advancements in remote sensing technology. These new advancements will be made available to coral reef and seagrass monitoring programs, providing a tool for acquiring data in remote areas of the world where traditional in-water methods are logistically difficult or limited in spatial coverage.