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Applying SPOT images to study the Colorado River effects on the Upper Gulf of California
* 1 , * 1 , * 2
1  Universidad Autónoma de Baja California
2  Universitat Politècnica de València


Sediment discharges from rivers play a key role in downstream ecosystems, both for ecosystem morphology (e.g. deltas) and productivity. However, construction of dams and river regulation dramatically alter sediment transport. Currently, the Colorado River delta is one of the most transformed deltas in the world and no flow reaches the Gulf of California in most of the years. In this study, we used satellite images for the observation and measurement of coastal waters turbidity in the Upper Gulf of California (UGC) and Colorado River Delta (CRD). Specifically, we used SPOT high spatial resolution satellite. We processed images of the wavelength 2 (610-680 nm) from the period between 2008 and 2013 in the Biosphere Reserve area. Results showed that suspended material and high turbidity predominate in the CRD and intertidal zones of the UGC. High and very high turbidity values were due to two opposite coastal transport components along the Sonora and Baja California coasts. The high spatial resolution of the SPOT sensor effectively allowed locating the sediment transport gradients and the accumulation zones in a highly variable area. This information provided by SPOT images can be very valuable for management decisions such as the amount of ecological flow that needs to be released. This area is the habitat of endangered species, such as totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) and vaquita (Phocoena sinus), that are seriously affected by the loss of estuarine conditions. High resolution satellite images can help in quantifying the true extent of corrective measures.

Keywords: turbidity; marine protected areas; monitoring; sediments; SPOT