Ultra high resolution aerial photography from Bluesky is being used to monitor coastal erosion in the Southampton Water estuary on the south coast of England. Commissioned by environmental consultancy Ecospan Environmental Ltd, the 5cm resolution photography is helping identify areas where the unique saltmarsh ecosystem is changing due to the impacts of climate change and human activity such as shipping, industry, urban sprawl and tourism. By using different ages of imagery, dating from 2007 and 2012 and also supplied by Bluesky, Ecospan Environmental can measure the rate of erosion and monitor change in the extent of the saltmarsh.
“Aerial photography, especially high resolution imagery, is an invaluable tool in environmental monitoring,” commented Mike Field, Director at Ecospan Environmental. “It is easy to use and easy to interpret and provides unequivocal evidence of changes that are taking place the area.
“By commissioning our own survey we could take control of the resolution of the data, and therefore the detail contained within. We could also influence the timing of capture in relation to tides etc and the exact extent of coverage,” continued Field. “This ensured the data we received was exactly what we required and were only paying for what we needed.”
Southampton Water is a tidal estuary north of the Solent and the Isle of Wight and with the city of Southampton at its most northerly point. The idyllic New Forest borders its saltmarsh lined western shores, which are also home to the Esso oil refinery at Fawley, while the steeper eastern shore is dominated by the Southampton suburb of Weston.
Saltmarshes are highly protected habitats providing an important resource for wading birds and wildfowl; acting as roosting, breeding and feeding grounds for many species. Saltmarshes often have a high structural and plant diversity and are particularly important for invertebrates. They also provide sheltered nursery sites for several species of fish.
Ecospan Environmental is an environmental consultancy specialising in the near shore marine and freshwater environments, working with clients such as dredging companies, harbour authorities, developers, industry and government, for example the Environment Agency and Natural England. Ecospan Environmental offers a range of services including ecological surveys and environmental impact assessments, diving surveys, hydrographic investigations and hydrodynamic modelling, for example. To facilitate these surveys, Ecospan Environmental operates a number of vessels, including an hovercraft, as well as a wide range of scientific equipment and sampling devices.