Using remote sensing to monitor the influence of river discharge on watershed outlets and adjacent coral Reefs: Magdalena River and Rosario Islands, Colombia

Max ​Moreno Madrinan, Douglas L. Rickman, Igor Ogashawara, Daniel E. Irwin, Jun Ye, Mohammad Z. Al-Hamdan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Worldwide, coral reef ecosystems are being increasingly threatened by sediments loads from river discharges, which in turn are influenced by changing rainfall patterns due to climate change and by growing human activity in their watersheds. In this case study, we explored the applicability of using remote sensing (RS) technology to estimate and monitor the relationship between water quality at the coral reefs around the Rosario Islands, in the Caribbean Sea, and the rainfall patterns in the Magdalena River watershed. From the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), this study used the water surface reflectance product (MOD09GQ) to estimate water surface reflectance as a proxy for sediment concentration and the land cover product (MCD12Q1 V51) to characterize land cover of the watershed. Rainfall was estimated by using the 3B43 V7 product from the Tropical Rainforest Measuring Mission (TRMM). For the first trimester of each year, we investigated the inter-annual temporal variation in water surface reflectance at the Rosario Islands and at the three main mouths of the Magdalena River watershed. No increasing or decreasing trends of water surface reflectance were detected for any of the sites for the study period 2001–2014 (p > 0.05) but significant correlations were detected among the trends of each site at the watershed mouths (r = 0.57–0.90, p < 0.05) and between them and the inter-annual variation in rainfall on the watershed (r = 0.63–0.67, p < 0.05). Those trimesters with above-normal water surface reflectance at the mouths and above-normal rainfall at the watershed coincided with La Niña conditions while the opposite was the case during El Niño conditions. Although, a preliminary analysis of inter-annual land cover trends found only cropland cover in the watershed to be significantly correlated with water surface reflectance at two of the watershed mouths (r = 0.58 and 0.63, p < 0.05), the validation analysis draw only a 40.7% of accuracy in this land cover classification. This requires further analysis to confirm the impact of the cropland on the water quality at the watershed outlets. Spatial analysis with MOD09GQ imagery detected the overpass of river plumes from Barbacoas Bay over the Rosario Islands waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-215
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Remote sensing
  • Suspended sediments
  • TRMM
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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