Remote sensing of the coastal zone: an overview and priorities for future research

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This paper uses the Special Issue of the International Journal of Remote Sensing on Remote Sensing of the Coastal Marine Environment to highlight recent advances in knowledge of remote sensing of the coastal zone and to define a series of priorities where future research into the application should be addressed.

Advances were identified in the benefit of high spatial and spectral resolution data and complementary remote sensing techniques (e.g. optical and acoustic, optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)). Further benefits are identified in rapid and more frequent data acquisition, faster and more automated processing and a greater sampling intensity over conventional field-based techniques. Issues associated with adoption of remotely sensed data for management are discussed.

Research priorities include the need for improved understanding and description of biotope classes and the functional interpretation of biotope maps and continued developments in understanding the radiative transfer properties of coastal environments. New knowledge is required on spatial and temporal variations of water column optical properties and its constituents. Methods for the best approaches to processing hyperspectral data require further investigation, as does the need for further testing of hyperspectral sensors for bottom type discrimination using data obtained at space-borne altitudes. Areas of value which continue to remain poorly investigated include the improvements to be gained from synergistic use of multi-wavelength remote sensing approaches, change detection techniques and multi-temporal comparisons and knowledge-based approaches to improve classification. The importance of specifically dedicated coastal zone sensors is discussed, as is alternative means of deployment (e.g. International Space Station (ISS) and Un-inhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)). The potential role of airborne digital photography for marine mapping is highlighted. The lack of accurate near-shore bathymetric data is identified as a key limitation in the application of geospatial data to coastal environments.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Earth, Environment and Geographical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond St, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, Scotland, UK;, Email: 2: School of Biological Sciences, Hatherly Laboratories, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter EX4 4PS, UK;, Email:

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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