USE OF UAV IMAGERY FOR EELGRASS MAPPING IN ATLANTIC CANADA
Eelgrass beds are critical in coastal ecosystems and can be useful as a measure of nearshore ecosystem health. Population declines have been seen around the world, including in Atlantic Canada. Restoration has the potential to aid the eelgrass population. Traditionally, field-level protocols would be used to monitor restoration; however, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) would be faster, more cost-efficient, and produce images with higher spatial resolution. This project used RGB UAV imagery and data acquired over five sites with eelgrass beds in the northern part of the Shediac Bay (New Brunswick, Canada). The images were mosaicked using Pix4Dmapper and PCI Geomatica. Each RGB mosaic was tested for the separability of four different classes (eelgrass bed, deep water channels, sand floor, and mud floor), and training areas were created for each class. The Maximum-likelihood classifier was then applied to each mosaic for creating a map of the five sites. With an average and overall accuracy higher than 98% and a Kappa coefficient higher than 0.97, the Pix4D RGB mosaic was superior to the PCI Geomatica RGB mosaic with an average accuracy of 89%, an overall accuracy of 87%, and a Kappa coefficient of 0.83. This study indicates that mapping eelgrass beds with UAV RGB imagery is possible, but that the mosaicking step is critical. However, some factors need to be considered for creating a better map, such as acquiring the images during overcast conditions to reduce the difference in sun illumination, and the effects of glint or cloud shadow on the images.