The Ashepoo, Combahee, Edisto (ACE) Basin in South Carolina is one of the largest undeveloped estuaries in the Southeastern United States. This system is monitored and protected by several government agencies to ensure its health and preservation. However, as populations in surrounding cities rapidly expand and land is urbanized, the surrounding water systems may decline from an influx of contaminants, leading to hypoxia, fish kills, and eutrophication. Conventional in situ water quality monitoring methods are timely and costly. Satellite remote sensing methods are used globally to monitor water systems and can produce an instantaneous synopsis of color-producing agents (CPAs), including chlorophyll-a, suspended matter (TSM), and colored-dissolved organic matter by applying bio-optical models. In this study, field, laboratory, and historical land use land cover (LULC) data were collected during the summers of 2002, 2011, 2015, and 2016. The results indicated higher levels of chlorophyll, ranging from 2.94 to 12.19 μg/L, and TSM values were from 60.4 to 155.2 mg/L between field seasons, with values increasing with time. A model was developed using multivariate, partial least squares regression (PLSR) to identify wavelengths that are more sensitive to chlorophyll-a (R2 = 0.49; RMSE = 1.8 μg/L) and TSM (R2 = 0.40; RMSE = 12.9 mg/L). The imbrication of absorption and reflectance features characterizing sediments and algal species in ACE Basin waters make it difficult for remote sensors to distinguish variations among in situ concentrations. The results from this study provide a strong foundation for the future of water quality monitoring and for the protection of biodiversity in the ACE basin.



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