Satellite image processing for the coarse-scale investigation of sandy coastal areas

Melissa Latella*, Arjen Luijendijk, Antonio M. Moreno-Rodenas, Carlo Camporeale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In recent years, satellite imagery has shown its potential to support the sustainable management of land, water, and natural resources. In particular, it can provide key information about the properties and behavior of sandy beaches and the surrounding vegetation, improving the ecomor-phological understanding and modeling of coastal dynamics. Although satellite image processing usually demands high memory and computational resources, free online platforms such as Google Earth Engine (GEE) have recently enabled their users to leverage cloud-based tools and handle big satellite data. In this technical note, we describe an algorithm to classify the coastal land cover and retrieve relevant information from Sentinel-2 and Landsat image collections at specific times or in a multitemporal way: the extent of the beach and vegetation strips, the statistics of the grass cover, and the position of the shoreline and the vegetation–sand interface. Furthermore, we validate the algorithm through both quantitative and qualitative methods, demonstrating the goodness of the derived classification (accuracy of approximately 90%) and showing some examples about the use of the algorithm’s output to study coastal physical and ecological dynamics. Finally, we discuss the algorithm’s limitations and potentialities in light of its scaling for global analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4613
Number of pages19
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Beach monitoring
  • Coastal vegetation
  • Geomorphology
  • Google Earth Engine
  • Satellite images
  • Shoreline detection


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