Use of remote sensing to assess vegetative stress as a proxy for soil contamination

John Dean*, Shara Ahmed, William Cheung, Ibrahim Aderemi Salaudeen, Matthew Reynolds, Samantha Bowerbank, Catherine Nicholson, Justin Perry

*Corresponding author for this work

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We report, for the first time, a multimodal investigation of current crude oil reprocessing and storage sites to assess their impact on the environment after 50 years of continuous operation. We have adopted a dual approach to investigate potential soil contamination. The first approach uses conventional analytical techniques i.e. energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) for metal analysis, and a complementary metabolomic investigation using hydrophilic liquid interaction chromatography hi-resolution mass spectrometry (HILIC-MS) for organic contaminants. Secondly, the deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a multispectral image (MSI) camera, for the remote sensing of vegetation stress, as a proxy for sub-surface soil contamination. The results identified high concentrations of barium (mean 21 017 ± 5950 μg g−1, n = 36) as well as metabolites derived from crude oil (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), cleaning processes (surfactants) and other organic pollutants (e.g. pesticides, plasticizers and pharmaceuticals) in the reprocessing site. This data has then been correlated, with post-flight data analysis derived vegetation indices (NDVI, GNDVI, SAVI and Cl green VI), to assess the potential to identify soil contamination because of vegetation stress. It was found that strong correlations exist (an average R2 of >0.68) between the level of soil contamination and the ground cover vegetation. The potential to deploy aerial remote sensing techniques to provide an initial survey, to inform decision-making, on suspected contaminated land sites can have global implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-176
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Sciences: Processes and Impacts
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

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