Ocean turbidity

Ocean turbidity is a measure of the amount of cloudiness or haziness in sea water caused by individual particles that are too small to be seen without magnification. Highly turbid ocean waters are those with a large number of scattering particulates in them. In both highly absorbing and highly scattering waters, visibility into the water is reduced. The highly scattering (turbid) water still reflects a lot of light while the highly absorbing water, such as a blackwater river or lake, is very dark. The scattering particles that cause the water to be turbid can be composed of many things, including sediments and phytoplankton.

Pre-Hurricane Bob Ocean Turbidity
Visualisation of the Ocean Turbidity of the ocean just before Hurricane Bob (August 14, 1991)


There are a number of ways to measure ocean turbidity, including autonomous remote vehicles, shipcasts and satellites.

From a satellite, a proxy measurement of the water turbidity can be made by examining the amount of reflectance in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. For the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), the logical choice is band 1, covering wavelengths 580 to 680 nanometres, the orange and red. In order to make derived products that are comparable over time and space, an atmospheric correction is required. To do this, the effects of Rayleigh scattering are calculated based on the satellite viewing angle and the solar zenith angle and then subtracted from the band 1 radiance. For an aerosol correction, band 2 in the near infrared is used. It is first corrected for Rayleigh scattering and then subtracted from the Rayleigh corrected band 1. The Rayleigh corrected band 2 is assumed to be aerosol radiance because no return signal from water in the near infrared is expected since water is highly absorbing at those wavelengths. Because bands 1 and 2 are relatively close on the electromagnetic spectrum, we can reasonably assume their aerosol radiances are the same.

In these images the turbidity is quantified as the percent reflected light emerging from the water column in a range of 0 to 8 percent. The reflectance percentage can be correlated to attenuation, Secchi disk depth or total suspended solids although the exact relationship will vary regionally and depends on the optical properties of the water. For example, in Florida Bay, 10% reflectance corresponds to a sediment concentration of 30 milligram/litre and a Secchi depth of 0.5 metre. These relationships are approximately linear so that 5% reflectance would correspond to a sediment concentration of approximately 15 milligram/litre and a Secchi depth of 1 metre. In the Mississippi River plume regions these same reflectance values would represent sediment concentrations that are about ten times or more higher.


As one would expect, the majority of these images reveal large increases in turbidity in the regions where a hurricane has made landfall. The increases are primarily due to sediments that have been resuspended from the shallow bottom regions. In areas near shore some of the signal may also be due to sediments eroded from beaches as well as from sediment laden river plumes. In some cases a post-hurricane phytoplankton bloom due to increased nutrient availability may perhaps be detectable.

The examination of the turbidity after the passing of a hurricane can have potentially many uses for coastal resource management including:

  • identifying regional "hot spots" where the erosion could be expected to be most severe
  • estimating the total sediment concentration that has been mobilized by the hurricane
  • determining the spatial extent of the sediment mobilization
  • identifying the extent and contribution of river plumes
  • assessing and predicting potential ecosystem impacts

With regard to these uses, determining the regions of high turbidity will allow managers to best decide on response strategies as well as help ensure that post-hurricane resources are most effectively utilized.

Interpreting images

Only a small fraction of the light incident on the ocean will be reflected and received by the satellite. The probability for a photon to reflect and exit the ocean decreases exponentially with length of its path through the water because the ocean is an absorbing medium. The more ocean a photon must travel through, the greater its chances of being absorbed by something. After absorption, it will eventually become part of the ocean's heat reservoir. The absorption and scattering characteristics of a water body determine the rate of vertical light attenuation and set a limit to the depths contributing to a satellite signal. A reasonable rule of thumb is that 90 percent of the signal coming from the water that is seen by the satellite is from the first attenuation length. How deep this is depends on the absorption and scattering properties of both the water itself and other constituents in the water. For wavelengths in the near infrared and longer, the penetration depth varies from a metre to a few micrometres. For band 1, the penetration depth will usually be between 1 and 10 metres. If the water has a large turbidity spike below 10 metres, the spike is unlikely to be seen by a satellite.

For very shallow clear water there is a good chance the bottom may be seen. For example, in the Bahamas, the water is quite clear and only a few metres deep, resulting in an apparent high turbidity because the bottom reflects a lot of the band 1 light. For areas with consistently high turbidity signals, particularly areas with relatively clear water, part of the signal may be due to bottom reflection. Normally this will not be a problem with a post-hurricane turbidity image since the storm easily resuspends enough sediment such that bottom reflection is negligible.

Clouds are also problematic for the interpretation of satellite derived turbidity. Cloud removal algorithms perform a satisfactory job for pixels that are fully cloudy. Partially cloudy pixels are much harder to identify and typically result in false high turbidity estimates. High turbidity values near clouds are suspect.

See also


Note: The information in this page has been incorporated from NOAA, allowable under United States fair use laws. Original source of the information is at http://www.csc.noaa.gov/crs/cohab/hurricane/turbid.htm

Aquatic ecosystem

An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water. Communities of organisms that are dependent on each other and on their environment live in aquatic ecosystems. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems.

Aquatic toxicology

Aquatic toxicology is the study of the effects of manufactured chemicals and other anthropogenic and natural materials and activities on aquatic organisms at various levels of organization, from subcellular through individual organisms to communities and ecosystems. Aquatic toxicology is a multidisciplinary field which integrates toxicology, aquatic ecology and aquatic chemistry.This field of study includes freshwater, marine water and sediment environments. Common tests include standardized acute and chronic toxicity tests lasting 24–96 hours (acute test) to 7 days or more (chronic tests). These tests measure endpoints such as survival, growth, reproduction, that are measured at each concentration in a gradient, along with a control test. Typically using selected organisms with ecologically relevant sensitivity to toxicants and a well-established literature background. These organisms can be easily acquired or cultured in lab and are easy to handle.


Benthos is the community of organisms that live on, in, or near the seabed, river, lake, or stream bottom, also known as the benthic zone. This community lives in or near marine or freshwater sedimentary environments, from tidal pools along the foreshore, out to the continental shelf, and then down to the abyssal depths.

Many organisms adapted to deep-water pressure cannot survive in the upperparts of the water column. The pressure difference can be very significant (approximately one atmosphere for each 10 metres of water depth).Because light is absorbed before it can reach deep ocean-water, the energy source for deep benthic ecosystems is often organic matter from higher up in the water column that drifts down to the depths. This dead and decaying matter sustains the benthic food chain; most organisms in the benthic zone are scavengers or detritivores.

The term benthos, coined by Haeckel in 1891, comes from the Greek noun βένθος "depth of the sea". Benthos is used in freshwater biology to refer to organisms at the bottom of freshwater bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and streams. There is also a redundant synonym, benthon.


Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence. Bioluminescence occurs widely in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as in some fungi, microorganisms including some bioluminescent bacteria and terrestrial invertebrates such as fireflies. In some animals, the light is bacteriogenic, produced by symbiotic organisms such as Vibrio bacteria; in others, it is autogenic, produced by the animals themselves.

In a general sense, the principal chemical reaction in bioluminescence involves some light-emitting molecule and an enzyme, generally called the luciferin and the luciferase, respectively. Because these are generic names, the luciferins and luciferases are often distinguished by including the species or group, i.e. Firefly luciferin. In all characterized cases, the enzyme catalyzes the oxidation of the luciferin.

In some species, the luciferase requires other cofactors, such as calcium or magnesium ions, and sometimes also the energy-carrying molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In evolution, luciferins vary little: one in particular, coelenterazine, is found in eleven different animal (phyla), though in some of these, the animals obtain it through their diet. Conversely, luciferases vary widely between different species, and consequently bioluminescence has arisen over forty times in evolutionary history.

Both Aristotle and Pliny the Elder mentioned that damp wood sometimes gives off a glow and many centuries later Robert Boyle showed that oxygen was involved in the process, both in wood and in glow-worms. It was not until the late nineteenth century that bioluminescence was properly investigated. The phenomenon is widely distributed among animal groups, especially in marine environments where dinoflagellates cause phosphorescence in the surface layers of water. On land it occurs in fungi, bacteria and some groups of invertebrates, including insects.

The uses of bioluminescence by animals include counter-illumination camouflage, mimicry of other animals, for example to lure prey, and signalling to other individuals of the same species, such as to attract mates. In the laboratory, luciferase-based systems are used in genetic engineering and for biomedical research. Other researchers are investigating the possibility of using bioluminescent systems for street and decorative lighting, and a bioluminescent plant has been created.

Colored dissolved organic matter

Colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) is the optically measurable component of dissolved organic matter in water. Also known as chromophoric dissolved organic matter, yellow substance, and gelbstoff, CDOM occurs naturally in aquatic environments and is a complex mixture of many hundreds to thousands of individual, unique organic matter molecules, which are primarily leached from decaying detritus and organic matter. CDOM most strongly absorbs short wavelength light ranging from blue to ultraviolet, whereas pure water absorbs longer wavelength red light. Therefore, water with little or no CDOM, such as the open ocean, appears blue. Waters containing high amounts of CDOM can range from brown, as in many rivers, to yellow and yellow-brown in coastal waters. In general, CDOM concentrations are much higher in fresh waters and estuaries than in the open ocean, though concentrations are highly variable, as is the estimated contribution of CDOM to the total dissolved organic matter pool.

Dead zone (ecology)

Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans and large lakes, caused by "excessive nutrient pollution from human activities coupled with other factors that deplete the oxygen required to support most marine life in bottom and near-bottom water. (NOAA)". Historically, many of these sites were naturally occurring. However, in the 1970s, oceanographers began noting increased instances and expanses of dead zones. These occur near inhabited coastlines, where aquatic life is most concentrated. (The vast middle portions of the oceans, which naturally have little life, are not considered "dead zones".)

In March 2004, when the recently established UN Environment Programme published its first Global Environment Outlook Year Book (GEO Year Book 2003), it reported 146 dead zones in the world's oceans where marine life could not be supported due to depleted oxygen levels. Some of these were as small as a square kilometre (0.4 mi²), but the largest dead zone covered 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 mi²). A 2008 study counted 405 dead zones worldwide.

Floodplain restoration

Floodplain restoration is the process of fully or partially restoring a river's floodplain to its original conditions before having been affected by the construction of levees (dikes) and the draining of wetlands and marshes.

The objectives of restoring floodplains include the reduction of the incidence of floods, the provision of habitats for aquatic species, the improvement of water quality and the increased recharge of groundwater.

GIS and aquatic science

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has become an integral part of aquatic science and limnology. Water by its very nature is dynamic. Features associated with water are thus ever-changing. To be able to keep up with these changes, technological advancements have given scientists methods to enhance all aspects of scientific investigation, from satellite tracking of wildlife to computer mapping of habitats. Agencies like the US Geological Survey, US Fish and Wildlife Service as well as other federal and state agencies are utilizing GIS to aid in their conservation efforts.

GIS is being used in multiple fields of aquatic science from limnology, hydrology, aquatic botany, stream ecology, oceanography and marine biology. Applications include using satellite imagery to identify, monitor and mitigate habitat loss. Imagery can also show the condition of inaccessible areas. Scientists can track movements and develop a strategy to locate locations of concern. GIS can be used to track invasive species, endangered species, and population changes.

One of the advantages of the system is the availability for the information to be shared and updated at any time through the use of web-based data collection.

Lake ecosystem

A lake ecosystem includes biotic (living) plants, animals and micro-organisms, as well as abiotic (nonliving) physical and chemical interactions.Lake ecosystems are a prime example of lentic ecosystems. Lentic refers to stationary or relatively still water, from the Latin lentus, which means sluggish. Lentic waters range from ponds to lakes to wetlands, and much of this article applies to lentic ecosystems in general. Lentic ecosystems can be compared with lotic ecosystems, which involve flowing terrestrial waters such as rivers and streams. Together, these two fields form the more general study area of freshwater or aquatic ecology.

Lentic systems are diverse, ranging from a small, temporary rainwater pool a few inches deep to Lake Baikal, which has a maximum depth of 1642 m. The general distinction between pools/ponds and lakes is vague, but Brown states that ponds and pools have their entire bottom surfaces exposed to light, while lakes do not. In addition, some lakes become seasonally stratified (discussed in more detail below.) Ponds and pools have two regions: the pelagic open water zone, and the benthic zone, which comprises the bottom and shore regions. Since lakes have deep bottom regions not exposed to light, these systems have an additional zone, the profundal. These three areas can have very different abiotic conditions and, hence, host species that are specifically adapted to live there.


Limnology ( lim-NOL-ə-jee; from Greek λίμνη, limne, "lake" and λόγος, logos, "knowledge"), is the study of inland aquatic ecosystems.

The study of limnology includes aspects of the biological, chemical, physical, and geological characteristics and functions of inland waters (running and standing waters, fresh and saline, natural or man-made). This includes the study of lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, springs, streams, wetlands, and groundwater. A more recent sub-discipline of limnology, termed landscape limnology, studies, manages, and seeks to conserve these ecosystems using a landscape perspective, by explicitly examining connections between an aquatic ecosystem and its watershed. Recently, the need to understand global inland waters as part of the Earth System created a sub-discipline called global limnology. This approach considers processes in inland waters on a global scale, like the role of inland aquatic ecosystems in global biogeochemical cycles.Limnology is closely related to aquatic ecology and hydrobiology, which study aquatic organisms and their interactions with the abiotic (non-living) environment. While limnology has substantial overlap with freshwater-focused disciplines (e.g., freshwater biology), it also includes the study of inland salt lakes.

List of watershed topics

This list embraces topographical watersheds and drainage basins and other topics focused on them.

Outline of fishing

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to fishing:

Fishing – activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping.

Particle (ecology)

In marine and freshwater ecology, a particle is a small object. Particles can remain in suspension in the ocean or freshwater. However, they eventually settle (rate determined by Stokes' law) and accumulate as sediment. Some can enter the atmosphere through wave action where they can act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN). Many organisms filter particles out of the water with unique filtration mechanisms (filter feeders). Particles are often associated with high loads of toxins which attach to the surface. As these toxins are passed up the food chain they accumulate in fatty tissue and become increasingly concentrated in predators (see bioaccumulation). Very little is known about the dynamics of particles, especially when they are re-suspended by dredging. They can remain floating in the water and drift over long distances. The decomposition of some particles by bacteria consumes a lot of oxygen and can cause the water to become hypoxic.

Photic zone

The photic zone, euphotic zone (Greek for "well lit": εὖ "well" + φῶς "light"), or sunlight (or sunlit) zone is the uppermost layer of water in a lake or ocean that is exposed to intense sunlight. It corresponds roughly to the layer above the compensation point, i.e. depth where the rate of carbon dioxide uptake, or equivalently, the rate of photosynthetic oxygen production, is equal to the rate of carbon dioxide production, equivalent to the rate of respiratory oxygen consumption, i.e. the depth where net carbon dioxide assimilation is zero.

It extends from the surface down to a depth where light intensity falls to one percent of that at the surface, called the euphotic depth. Accordingly, its thickness depends on the extent of light attenuation in the water column. Typical euphotic depths vary from only a few centimetres in highly turbid eutrophic lakes, to around 200 meters in the open ocean. It also varies with seasonal changes in turbidity.

Since the photic zone is where almost all of the photosynthesis occurs, the depth of the photic zone is generally proportional to the level of primary production that occurs in that area of the ocean. About 90% of all marine life lives in the photic zone. A small amount of primary production is generated deep in the abyssal zone around the hydrothermal vents which exist along some mid-oceanic ridges.

The zone which extends from the base of the euphotic zone to about 200 metres is sometimes called the disphotic zone. While there is some light, it is insufficient for photosynthesis, or at least insufficient for photosynthesis at a rate greater than respiration. The euphotic zone together with the disphotic zone coincides with the epipelagic zone. The bottommost zone, below the euphotic zone, is called the aphotic zone. Most deep ocean waters belong to this zone.

The transparency of the water, which determines the depth of the photic zone, is measured simply with a Secchi disk. It may also be measured with a photometer lowered into the water.

Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.

Every three years, representatives of the Contracting Parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the policy-making organ of the Convention which adopts decisions (Resolutions and Recommendations) to administer the work of the Convention and improve the way in which the Parties are able to implement its objectives. COP12 was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 2015. COP13 was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in October 2018.

Ramsar site

A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975. It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources.Ramsar identifies wetlands of international importance, especially those providing waterfowl habitat.

As of 2016, there were 2,231 Ramsar sites, protecting 214,936,005 hectares (531,118,440 acres), and 169 national governments are currently participating.

Short-beaked common dolphin

The short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is a species of common dolphin. It has a larger range than the long-beaked common dolphin (D. capensis), occurring throughout warm-temperate and tropical oceans, including the Indian Ocean although in smaller quantities than other places they are found. There are more short-beaked common dolphins than any other dolphin species in the warm-temperate portions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is also found in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. The short-beaked common dolphin is also abundant in the Black Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Red Sea. They follow the gulf stream up to Norwegian waters. Seldom do any short-beaked dolphin venture near the Arctic.

Sustainable gardening

Sustainable gardening includes the more specific sustainable landscapes, sustainable landscape design, sustainable landscaping, sustainable landscape architecture, resulting in sustainable sites. It comprises a disparate group of horticultural interests that can share the aims and objectives associated with the international post-1980s sustainable development and sustainability programs developed to address the fact that humans are now using natural biophysical resources faster than they can be replenished by nature.Included within this compass are those home gardeners, and members of the landscape and nursery industries, and municipal authorities, that integrate environmental, social, and economic factors to create a more sustainable future.

Organic gardening and the use of native plants are integral to sustainable gardening.

Water remote sensing

Water Remote Sensing studies the color of water through the observation of the spectrum of water leaving radiation. From the study of this spectrum, the concentration of optically active components of the upper layer of the water body can be concluded via specific algorithms.Water quality monitoring by remote sensing and close-range instruments has obtained considerable attention since the founding of EU Water Framework Directive.

Aquatic ecosystems

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.