The research project Sentinels4Marine Plastic Waste focused on assessing the feasibility of using Earth Observation data for global and local monitoring of plastic debris abundance in both fresh- and saltwater aquatic ecosystems. In recent years, the worldwide contamination of aquatic ecosystems with plastic debris has emerged as a growing problem, posing not only a potential threat for ecosystems but also has the potential to even influence human health. This interdisciplinary project combined remote sensing data analysis and in situ measurements of macro- and microplastic debris to assess the potential of remote sensing technologies as a monitoring tool.
Worldwide contamination of aquatic ecosystems with plastic debris emerged as a growing problem as it poses not only a potential threat for ecosystems but also has the potential to even influence human health. Thus, attempts on a national and international level are made to establish monitoring concepts to gather data on the degree of pollution as well as to evaluate reduction strategies. This interdisciplinary project combined remote sensing data analysis and in-situ measurements of macro- and microplastic debris to assess the potential of remote sensing technologies as a monitoring tool.
Spatial correlations between microplastic and remote sensing derivable water parameters (i.e. chlorophyll-a, suspended particulate matter) were analyzed for their suitability as proxies for microplastic abundances in three rivers (Trave, Elbe, Po). With the current dataset it was not possible to use water parameters as proxy for microplastic contamination reliably. Nevertheless, out results build the basis for further detailed studies. Further attempts to model microplastic accumulation within ocean fronts with remote sensing methods proved to be unreliable. Nevertheless, a direct approach for identification of floating plastic debris through analysis of drone based RGB images showed promising results.
The project results will allow to better estimate the gas and aerosol emissions of vegetation and peat fires. Through a a dedicated and efficient fire detection system based on remote sensing firefighting can be better targeted and potential emission avoided. Users of this system include environmental authorities, protected area managers and fire brigades.
Animal Ecology I, Faculty for Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences at the University of Bayreuth, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology – BMWi via the German Aerospace Center (DLR)