A probabilistic approach to mapping the contribution of individual riverine discharges into Liverpool Bay using distance accumulation cost methods on satellite derived ocean-colour data

Richard Heal, Lenka Fronkova, Tiago Silva, Kate Collingridge, Richard Harrod, Naomi Greenwood, Michelle J. Devlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessments of the water quality in coastal zones often rely on indirect indicators from contributing river inputs and the neighbouring ocean. Using a novel combination of distance accumulation cost methods and an ocean-colour product derived from SENTINEL-3 data, we developed a probabilistic method for the assessment of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) in Liverpool Bay (UK) for the period from 2017 to 2020. Using our approach, we showed the annual and monthly likelihood of DIN exposure from its 12 major contributory rivers. Furthermore, we generated monthly risk maps showing the probability of DIN exposure from all rivers, which revealed a seasonal variation of extent and location around the bay. The highest likelihood of high DIN exposure throughout the year was in the estuarine regions of the Dee, Mersey, and Ribble, along with near-shore areas along the north Wales coast and around the mouth of the rivers Mersey and Ribble. There were seasonal changes in the risk of DIN exposure, and this risk remained high all year for the Mersey and Dee estuary regions. In contrast, for the mouth and near the coastal areas of the Ribble, the DIN exposure decreased in spring, remained low during the summer and early autumn, before displaying an increase during winter. Our approach offers the ability to assess the water quality within coastal zones without the need of complex hydrodynamic models, whilst still having the potential to apportion nutrient exposure to specific riverine inputs. This information can help to prioritise how direct mitigation strategies can be applied to specific river catchments, focusing the limited resources for coastal zone and river basin management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3666
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2023


  • coastal water quality
  • land-based pollution
  • Liverpool Bay
  • ocean colour
  • river plume
  • UK
  • water quality assessment

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