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The potential of multibeam sonars as 3D turbidity and SPM monitoring tool in the North Sea
Praet, N.; Collart, T.; Ollevier, A.; Roche, M.; Degrendele, K.; De Rijcke, M.; Urban, P.; Vandorpe, T. (2023). The potential of multibeam sonars as 3D turbidity and SPM monitoring tool in the North Sea. Remote Sens. 15(20): 4918.
In: Remote Sensing. MDPI: Basel. ISSN 2072-4292; e-ISSN 2072-4292, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Particulates > Suspended particulate matter
    Properties > Physical properties > Turbidity
Author keywords
    multibeam water column; LISST-200X

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    Monitoring turbidity is essential for sustainable coastal management because an increase in turbidity leading to diminishing water clarity has a detrimental ecological impact. Turbidity in coastal waters is strongly dependent on the concentration and physical properties of particles in the water column. In the Belgian part of the North Sea, turbidity and suspended particulate matter (SPM) concentrations have been monitored for decades by satellite remote sensing, but this technique only focuses on the surface layer of the water column. Within the water column, turbidity and SPM concentrations are measured in stations or transects with a suite of optical and acoustic sensors. However, the dynamic nature of SPM variability in coastal areas and the recent construction of offshore windmill parks and dredging and dumping activities justifies the need to monitor natural and human-induced SPM variability in 3D instead. A possible solution lies in modern multibeam echosounders (MBES), which, in addition to seafloor bathymetry data, are also able to deliver acoustic backscatter data from the water column. This study investigates the potential of MBES as a 3D turbidity and SPM monitoring tool. For this purpose, a novel empirical approach is developed, in which 3D MBES water column and in-situ optical sensor datasets were collected during ship transects to yield an empirical relation using linear regression modeling. This relationship was then used to predict SPM volume concentrations from the 3D acoustic measurements, which were further converted to SPM mass concentrations using calculated densities. Our results show that these converted mean mass concentrations at the Kwinte and Westdiep swale areas are within the limits of the reported yearly averages. Moreover, they are in the same order of magnitude as the measured mass concentrations from Niskin water samples during each campaign. While there is still need for further improvement of acquisition and processing workflows, this study presents a promising approach for converting MBES water column data to turbidity and SPM measurements. This opens possibilities for improving future monitoring tools, both in scientific and industrial sectors.

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