Chlorophyll-a concentrations, temporal variations and regional differences from satellite remote sensing
Chlorophyll-a concentrations derived from satellite remote sensing show a high spatial variability reaching relative high values in the Eastern and South Eastern part of the Baltic Sea. The chlorophyll-a concentrations show also significant inter-annual variability that might be related to the variability of the meteorological conditions in the basin and its catchment (e.g. high/low precipitation in spring -> high/low river discharges -> high/low nutrient input and stratification -> higher/lower biological productivity).
Summer chlorophyll-a concentrations in the sub-basins can deviate significantly from an overall average in the Baltic. The satellite-derived chlorophyll-like pigments in the Baltic Sea are clearly higher than in the Skagerrak and North Sea.
Relevance of the indicator for describing developments in the environment
Chlorophyll concentration is an index of phytoplankton biomass and it is the most common property that characterizes marine first trophic level. Chlorophyll-a concentrations derived from satellite remote-sensing images of ocean colour, provide a unique synoptic view of the marine ecosystem. This information is of high relevance as it increases our understanding in fields such as ocean bio-geochemistry, eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, fisheries, coastal zone management and mixed layer dynamics.
A major value of ocean colour lies in the long-term monitoring of the marine environment which will improve the understanding of the ecosystems functioning. It will also help to assess the response to anthropogenic pressures like agriculture, urban development and global change. Chlorophyll concentration, as the principle deliverable from ocean colour, has a dynamic range of at least four orders of magnitude over different regions and seasons (from 0.01 to 100 mg.m-3).
In many regional sea ecosystems a considerable increase in the concentration of nutrients in coastal waters has been recorded in the last decades. A major source of these nutrients is agriculture and intensive livestock-farming which release these substances into the drainage basin. Nutrient enrichment of the waters stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, leading, in certain circumstances, to the phenomena of algal blooms and to anoxia in the lower part of the water column with destruction of the benthic fauna and flora. In addition, insufficient and selective sewage treatment can increase the input of nutrients into coastal marine waters and modify the natural ratio between them (removal of phosphorous compared to nitrogen) that may lead to changes in algal quantity and composition. Having this in mind, long-term monitoring capabilities of optical remote sensing satellites can help to:
1) better understand the functioning of marine ecosystems and, as a consequence,
2) verify the success of implementing environmental legislation like the Water Framework Directive, the Nitrates Directive and the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.
Results and assessment
The maps given here are produced from SeaWiFS satellite images showing the July-August mean concentration of chlorophyll-like pigments in the Baltic Sea from 1998 to 2005. With the exception of 1998 and 2004, where the mean summer chlorophyll-a concentration was lower than the remaining assessed period (2.0 mg.m-3), the overall Baltic Sea mean summer chlorophyll-a concentration is rather stable, with a mean value of approximately 2.3 mg.m-3 and peaks reaching 2.5 mg.m-3 in 1999 and 2005. The satellite derived summer chlorophyll-a images show a region of high concentration (>4.0 mg.m-3) in the Gulf of Finland (an enclosed area with high fresh river input and high turbidity), as opposed to the Gulf of Bothnia (a colder brackish-water area with less light availability during the phytoplankton growing season), where the summer chlorophyll-a concentrations tend to be significantly lower (<2.5 mg.m-3). In the Baltic Proper region (a permanently saline stratified area with a number of deep basins) summer chlorophyll-a concentrations show a high temporal and spatial variability (between 2.0 mg.m-3 and 4.0 mg.m-3), while in the Kattegat and Belt Sea region (a shallow transition area to the North Sea with high water exchange) the chlorophyll-a summer mean values are amongst the lowest ones found in the Baltic Sea (between 0.5 mg.m-3 and 2.0 mg.m-3).
Due to the lack of satellite data in the first 1-2 km from the coastline (for which the signal is affected by land adjacency), chlorophyll concentrations inside most estuaries and fjords cannot be reliably determined from the satellite.
Figure 1a July-August 1998 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1b July-August 1999 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1c July-August 2000 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1d July-August 2001 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1e July-August 2002 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1f July-August 2003 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1g July-August 2004 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 1h July-August 2005 Chlorophyll-a map of the Baltic Sea from satellite remote sensing of Ocean Colour
Figure 2 Baltic Sea regions for which the Chlorophyll-a 1998 to 2005 trend analysis has been performed
1 - Bothnian Bay (Lon: 64.8N - 65.3N ; Lat: 22.8E - 23.9E)
Regional chl-a mean values consistently lower than the mean overall Baltic Sea, except 2001.
2 - Bothnian Sea North (Lon: 62.5N - 63.0N ; Lat: 19.4E - 20.4E)
Regional chl-a mean values very similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea, except for 2003 & 2004 where the regional values are slightly lower.
3 - Bothnian Sea South (Lon: 61.0N - 61.5N ; Lat: 19.0E - 20.0E)
Regional chl-a mean values similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea, except 2005 where regional values are slightly higher.
4 - Entry Gulf of Finland (Lon: 59.1N - 59.7N ; Lat: 22.3E - 23.3E)
Regional chl-a mean values consistently higher than the mean overall Baltic Sea, with a further dramatic increase in 2005.
5 - Central Gulf of Finland (Lon: 59.6N - 60.0N ; Lat: 25.0E - 26.0E)
Regional chl-a mean values consistently higher than the mean overall Baltic Sea, with the highest peak in 2001.
6 - Landsort (Lon: 58.0N - 58.5N ; Lat: 18.0E - 19.0E)
Regional chl-a mean values consistently higher than the mean overall Baltic Sea with the highest peak in 2005. Increasing trend, except 2001 and 2004.
7 - Gulf of Riga (Lon: 57.5N - 57.9N ; Lat: 23.0E - 23.8E)
Regional chl-a mean values consistently higher than the mean overall Baltic Sea. Increasing trend until 2004.
8 - Central Baltic Proper (Lon: 57.0N - 57.5N ; Lat: 19.5E - 20.5E)Regional chl-a mean values similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea, except 1999, 2003, 2004 and 2005 where the regional values are significantly higher.
9 - Southern Baltic Proper (Lon: 55.6N - 56.1N ; Lat: 17.3E - 18.3E)
Regional chl-a mean values similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea, except 2001 where the regional values are significantly higher.
10 - Off Gulf of Gdansk (Lon: 54.9N - 55.4N ; Lat: 18.7E - 19.7E)
Regional chl-a mean values higher than the mean overall Baltic Sea, with a peak in 2005. Trend decreasing from 2001 to 2003, and then increasing to 2005.
11 - Bornholm Sea (Lon: 55.0N - 55.5N ; Lat: 15.8E - 16.8E)
Regional chl-a mean values similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea. Decreasing trend from 2001.
12 - Arkona Sea (Lon: 54.7N - 55.1N ; Lat: 13.0E - 14.0E)
Regional chl-a mean values similar to the mean overall Baltic Sea and decreasing in 2005.
13 - Sounds (Lon: 56.2N - 56.7N ; Lat: 11.2E - 12.0E)
Regional chl-a mean values lower than the mean overall Baltic Sea, except 2004 where the regional value is higher.
Validity of the chlorophyll-a product
The chlorophyll-a algorithm OC4 V4 is designed for oceanic waters and it can lead to large uncertainties in the Baltic Sea and in river influenced areas due to the presence of dissolved organic matter (DOM or yellow substance) and suspended particulate matter. The results should be therefore interpreted with caution. The temporal variability must also be analysed accounting for the number of valid observations.
The HELCOM project “Validation of Algorithms for Chlorophyll Retrieval from Satellite Data for the Baltic Sea area” has evaluated existing algorithms for chlorophyll-a retrieval. On a basin wide scale the best results were obtained with the OC4 V4 algorithm (the one applied for the chlorophyll-a maps in this Indicator Fact Sheet). However, the findings of the project suggest that further joint efforts would be needed to improve the algorithm with regards to the specific optical properties of the Baltic Sea (i.e. dissolved organic matter as well as total suspended matter).
Characteristics of the chlorophyll-a maps
- Data set: SeaWiFS (http://marine.jrc.ec.europa.eu)
- Projection: Cylindrical
- Resolution: 2 km (at the center of the image)
- Atmospheric corrections: JRC/IES/IMW; ref 1, 2, 3, 4
- Chlorophyll algorithm: Ocean Color 4 (OC4 V4); ref 5
- July-August mean from daily data
- Log color scale between 0.2 and 10 mg.m-3
1) B.Sturm and G.Zibordi, Atmospheric correction of SeaWiFS data by an approximate model and vicarious calibration. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 23:489-501, 2002.
2) B.Bulgarelli and G.Zibordi. Remote sensing of ocean color: assessment of an approximate atmospheric correction method. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 24:491-509, 2003.
3) HELCOM. Validation of Algorithms for Chlorophyll-a Retrieval from Satellite Data for the Baltic Sea Area. Editor: W. Schrimpf. Balt. Sea Environ. Proc. No 94, pp 44, 2004.
4) F.Mélin, G.Zibordi and J.F.Berthon. Assessment of atmospheric and marine SeaWiFS products for the North Adriatic Sea. IEEE Transactions in Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 41: 548-558, 2003.
5) J. E. O'Reilly, et al. Ocean Color Chlorophyll a Algorithms for SeaWiFS, OC2 and OC4: Version 4. In J. E. O'Reilly et al.: NASA Tech. Memo. 2000-206892, Vol. 11, S.B.Hooker and E.R. Firestone, Eds, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt. Maryland, pp. 49, 2000.
For reference purposes, please cite this indicator fact sheet as follows:
[Author’s name(s)], [Year]. [Indicator Fact Sheet title]. HELCOM Indicator Fact Sheets 2006. Online. [Date Viewed], http://www.helcom.fi/environment2/ifs/en_GB/cover/.
Last updated: 28 September 2006.