The BELAIR 2015 - LITORA campaign includes three research sites: Zeebrugge, Ijzermonding and Zwin & Lage Moere van Meetkerke.

1. Zeebrugge


To test UAV with digital camera for TSM retrieval.

Executive Summary

A UAV will be equipped with digital camera, GPS and IMU. A processing chain will be developed for direct georeferencing and atmospheric correction of the UAV imagery. The images will be used to retrieve TSM concentrations within the harbour and possibly behind a ship.

Data acquisition

Postponed to 2016.

2. Ijzermonding


IJzermonding estuary is a valuable intertidal ecosystem, both from the morphodynamic point of view (e.g. coastal safety) as from the ecological point of view (characterization of habitat type). The main aim of the project is to better understand its sediment dynamics by looking at the microalgal biofilms presence and evolution on the tidal flats.

The use of remote sensing techniques is key to assess that target as they are capable of explicitly capturing (and hence understanding) the high heterogeneity and dynamics of these inaccessible ecosystems at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Executive summary

For the 2015 BELAIR campaign both APEX and UAV (Ebee) fligths were requested.

Due to bad meteorogical conditions (06/07/2015), no suitable APEX images could be acquired.

The Ebee flights and field campaign was successfully carried out on 10/07/2015. The study area was delimited for further georreferencing by posting 11 poles (GPS measurements were taken at each pole) and one location was chosen as the only sampling point to make the sediment analysis. Six Ebee fligths were done to obtain high-resolution (cm-scale) images of tidal flat biofilm distribution and evolution. ASD measurements were taken at the time of each flight on the sample points.


  • GPS measurements
  • Ground ASD measurements
  • Sediment samples for laboratory analysis of biofilm
  • Pictures


  • Ebee (multispectral camera)


Due to cloud coverage no suitable APEX images could be acquired.

3. Zwin & Lage Moere van Meetkerke


The overall objective of the research in the Zwin and Lage Moere van Meetkerke nature reserves is to develop practical methodologies for mapping and monitoring biodiversity in tidal marshes, coastal dunes and polder grasslands, using remote sensing.

These methodologies can support:

-              the mapping and monitoring of Natura 2000 habitats, including their conservation status;

-              the mapping and monitoring of geo(hydro)morphological patterns and processes;

-              the mapping and monitoring of invasive plant species;

-              research on the effects of management;

-              research on ecosystem stability and resilience, and the link with e.g. climate change and other environmental drivers.

Executive summary

A key priority of the EU’s biodiversity policy is to ensure the full and timely implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives. These directives require Member States to designate and manage protected areas for the conservation of rare and threatened species and habitat types listed in the directives’ Annexes. These protected sites make up the Natura 2000 Network. The aim of the directives is to ensure that the species and habitats they protect are maintained and restored to a favourable conservation status across their natural range within the EU. An important incentive for Member States to undertake actions is the obligation to monitor and report to the EC on the status and trends of biodiversity on their territory. Moreover, monitoring is in its turn indispensable to evaluate and steer the adopted measures and actions. Monitoring of habitat quality and biodiversity value is currently mainly done by field work. Remote sensing is more and more recognized as a powerful alternative. The strength of remote sensing is in its ability to deliver a wide range of qualitative and quantitative measures and information types (e.g. biochemical, biophysical measures, plant traits & functional types) in a standardized manner with full coverage over larger areas. Many of these data types can either not be obtained with field surveys, or only at great cost. The provision of such data by remote sensing opens new ways of looking at quality and biodiversity value of vegetation and habitats.

The aim of this research is to develop a remote sensing based monitoring system for protected coastal ecosystems. Data acquired from different sensors onboard airplanes and UAVs (and with a view of upscaling towards new satellite data like Sentinel-2) are combined so that remote sensing will give us a picture as complete as possible to serve the reporting obligations on Natura 2000 and to evaluate/steer nature conservation management actions (e.g. grazing).

The project is a cooperation of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), KU Leuven, Division Nature, Forest and Landscape, and VITO’s Local Environmental Monitoring (LEMON) group.

First analysis of the data were reported in: Christiansen C.M. (2015). Exploring spectroscopy as a method for the quantification of biomass and plant diversity in coastal dune grasslands. Master’s Thesis – Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven (supervised by Somers and Vanden Borre)

Data acquisition


In July 2015, a set of reference data on grassland vegetation was collected in the Zwin and Lage Moere van Meetkerke. Within a circle of 2 m radius around the plot centre, the following data were recorded:

  • GPS location (cm accuracy)
  • a vegetation relevé, consisting of plant species composition and abundance
  • vegetation type
  • % cover of graminoids, herbs (forbs), mosses
  • an estimate of aboveground dry biomass (gram per m²), determined by clipping, drying and weighing biomass from three 0.4*0.4m² squares within the plot

Sample size Zwin: 22; Lage Moere Meetkerke: 15.


UAV datasets were obtained by INBO over the Zwin on 9 and 10 July 2015 (Zwin coastal dunes and polder grasslands) and on 12 October 2015 (Zwin tidal marsh), using an RGB sensor on a Gatewing X100.

VITO acquired UAV datasets with a SenseFly eBee over the Lage Moere on 30 June 2015 and over the Zwin on 11 July 2015. A MultiSpec and a Red-Edge sensor was used (on separate flights).


APEX imagery was acquired on 30 June 2015 over the Lage Moere in good weather conditions. On 7 July 2015, an APEX flight over the Zwin did not yield any useful images due to high cloud cover.