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Space Based Cyanobacteria Information & Services

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CyanoAlert (Space Based Cyanobacteria Information & Services)

Reporting period: 2019-03-01 to 2020-06-30

Global services for monitoring cyanobacteria blooms are of importance because the production of toxins from these blooms poses high risks to human, animal and ecosystem health. Being driven by higher lake water temperatures from climate change and nutrient enrichment from urban populations and commercial agriculture, cyanobacteria blooms can be a threat to the provision of clean water globally.
Legislations in countries around the world and guidelines by global organisations (e.g. WHO and UNEP) have highlighted the need to monitor the temporal variability of the status and spatial distribution of the most sensitive and essential natural habitats. In practice, this means that extensive and expensive sampling programs are needed. For aquatic environments, the fulfilment of these monitoring requirements is an acknowledged problem due to the size of the largest lakes, the enormous number of lakes in total, their considerable temporal and spatial variability and, in some cases, their inaccessibility. The ecological status of a water body can be described by various biological and physical chemical quality parameters and several of these can be monitored from space.
The overall objective of CyanoAlert was to introduce into the market an innovative service for detecting and monitoring of cyanobacteria blooms in lakes and coastal seas and thereby im-proving the timeliness and coverage of the water quality status and potentially threatening blooms with quick and simple access to appropriate Earth observation (EO) based products for different types of water managers.
The CyanoAlert developments have resulted in a service for the environmental authorities and commercial sector, concerned with the quality of water resources (www.cyanoalert.com). The service delivers a fully automated application for detecting and assessing occurrences of cyanobacterial blooms globally alongside complementary water quality products such as chlorophyll concentration and turbidity, based on Copernicus satellite data. It is based on a dissemination system that provides user-specific information for monitoring and reporting purposes to paying customers (via a viewer and alert subscription), and free and open information for the public (via a mobile app).
The establishment of a sustainable supply chain will now enable the commercial partners to proceed with the exploitation of the project’s outcomes in order to further develop the market for this innovative service and to significantly improve spatial and temporal frequency of monitoring bringing about long-term cost savings and much needed extended information coverage.
Regular meetings with the project Users Partners and with potential new customers served as a basis for the project efforts throughout the lifetime of the project.
A large effort was placed on technical specifications and implementations; securing the hardware and processing needs and identifying and implementing different elements of the processing chains, to ensure reliable product access, storage and processing and to keep data processing soft-ware up to date with scientific developments. In addition to identification of cyanobacteria and estimation of chl-a concentration, other algorithms and products (e.g. TSM and Secchi Disc Depth) were implemented, validated and added to the service portfolio as a response to user requirements. ENVISAT MERIS, Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-2 processing chains are now in place for automated service provision.
Equally important was the development of the CyanoAlert service tools, including a web based viewer, subscription and app, which now constitutes the core of the service on the end-user side. In 2019, a service trial based on daily cyanobacteria identification and chl-a alerts was available for the User Partners. After the trial period, the information and tools were further finessed based on iterative feedback from the users of the service. The first official release of the viewer occurred in May 2020 and the mobile app was officially released in June 2020.
Validation of the CyanoAlert products and service was made to characterise the performance of the service in the user-specific regions of interest. The work was preceded by an effort to compile validation data from the User Partners in Italy, Romania and Sweden, as well as on data acquired from more recently established partnerships with stakeholders in Germany and the United States. In addition, guidelines for in-situ measurements were prepared and CyanoAlert in situ data collection campaigns were performed in Romania and Italy during 2018 and 2019. The validation efforts focused on Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-2 and identified the most suitable algorithms for each region, which were then implemented in spring 2020 in the CyanoAlert Viewer and App data cubes to ensure that only relevant products are available for each user.
In parallel with final technical developments, the CyanoAlert service has become a registered trademark and been presented at different conferences, workshops and specific CyanoAlert demonstration webinars. Potential clients have been approached and service assignments dis-cussed. First commercial contracts were established and services already implemented for the 2020 summer season, and several are discussed for 2021 and beyond.
The project has generated an information service for commercial and public entities that goes be-yond the state of the art and delivers much needed information supporting risk assessments related to cyanobacteria blooms derived from globally available Copernicus EO data. The service surpasses existing services and products on the market as it delivers near-real-time information to user clients useful for their immediate monitoring and management activities. The information is integrated into and adapted to their daily activities and includes an alert service. The alert criteria are set by the user, who then receives the near-real-time status of selected water bodies and stations to ensure that suspected problematic situations are identified quickly. Thereby, warnings can rapidly be broadcasted, and measures initiated. The CyanoAlert Service provides globally-valid market-ready information products. This value-added information is based on developments of EO derived products that are based on recent research efforts for optically complex and diverse inland and coastal waters.
Existing user feedback proved that we have been able to integrate suitably formatted and customized EO based information into users’ pre-existing workflows and processes in an innovative way. The CyanoAlert service significantly accelerates the pace at which EO information services for water quality are made available and taken up by customers in the global market without prior or ex-tensive technical know-how in the field of remote sensing.
CyanoAlert information products offer the possibility to identify potentially harmful toxin-producing cyanobacteria blooms and complementary water quality products such as chl-a and turbidity. The information is the basis for the highly innovative operational service offered by the CyanoAlert service.
The use of CyanoAlert service tools by different types of users can also lead to greater social aware-ness of the risks related to cyanobacteria blooms to human and animal health, and the impacts of anthropogenic activities including pollution on water quality and the health of fragile water re-sources.