AbstractImaging spectrometry of non-oceanic aquatic ecosystems has been in development since the late 1980s when the first airborne hyperspectral sensors were deployed over lakes. Most water quality management applications were, however, developed using multispectral mid-spatial resolution satellites or coarse spatial resolution ocean colour satellites till now. This situation is about to change with a suite of upcoming imaging spectrometers being deployed from experimental satellites or from the International Space Station. We review the science of developing applications for inland and coastal aquatic ecosystems that often are a mixture of optically shallow and optically deep waters, with gradients of clear to turbid and oligotrophic to hypertrophic productive waters and with varying bottom visibility with and without macrophytes, macro-algae, benthic micro-algae or corals. As the spaceborne, airborne and in situ optical sensors become increasingly available and appropriate for aquatic ecosystem detection, monitoring and assessment, the science-based applications will need to be further developed to an operational level. The Earth Observation-derived information products will range from more accurate estimates of turbidity and transparency measures, chlorophyll, suspended matter and coloured dissolved organic matter concentration, to more sophisticated products such as particle size distributions, phytoplankton functional types or distinguishing sources of suspended and coloured dissolved matter, estimating water depth and mapping types of heterogeneous substrates. We provide an overview of past science, current state of the art and future directions so that early career scientists as well as aquatic ecosystem managers and associated industry groups may be prepared for the imminent deluge of imaging spectrometry data.