Hyperspectral discrimination of coral reef benthic communities in the western Caribbean

E Karpouzli*, TJ Malthus, CJ Place

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Determining a subset of wavelengths that best discriminates reef benthic habitats and their associated communities is essential for the development of remote sensing techniques to monitor them. This study measured spectral reflectance from 17 species of western Caribbean reef biota including coral, algae, seagrasses, and sediments, as well as healthy and diseased coral. It sought to extend the spectral library of reef-associated species found in the literature and to test the spectral discrimination of a hierarchy of habitats, community groups, and species. We compared results from hyperspectral reflectance and derivative datasets to those simulated for the three visible multispectral wavebands of the IKONOS sensor. The best discriminating subset of wavelengths was identified by multivariate stepwise selection procedure (discriminant function analysis). Best discrimination at all levels was obtained using the derivative dataset based on 6-15 non-contiguous wavebands depending on the level of the classification, followed by the hyperspectral reflectance dataset which was based on as few as 2-4 non-contiguous wavebands. IKONOS wavebands performed worst. The best discriminating subset of wavelengths in the three classification resolutions, and particularly those of the medium resolution, was in agreement with those identified by Hochberg and Atkinson (2003) and Hochberg et al. (2003) for reef communities worldwide. At all levels of classification, reflectance wavebands selected by the analysis were similar to those reported in recent studies carried out elsewhere, confirming their applicability in different biogeographical regions. However the greater accuracies achieved using the derivative datasets suggests that hyperspectral data is required for the most accurate classification of reef biotic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-151
Number of pages11
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2004


  • hyperspectral
  • reflectance
  • coral
  • algae
  • seagrass
  • discrimination
  • derivative analysis
  • San Andres
  • Caribbean
  • ETM+


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