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Mapping hydraulic biotopes using terrestrial laser scan data of water surface properties

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Andy Large


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For more than a decade, habitat mapping using biotopes (in-channel hydraulically-defined habitats) has underpinned aquatic conservation in the UK through (a) providing baseline information on system complexity and (b) allowing environmental and ecological change to be monitored and evaluated. The traditional method used is the subjective river habitat or corridor survey. This has recently been revised to include the floodplain via GeoRHS, but issues still exist concerning development of a national database clue to the labour intensive nature of the data collection, subjectivity issues between samplers, temporal changes, the fuzzy nature of perceived habitats and habitat boundaries. This paper takes an innovative approach to biotope definition using high resolution spatial data to define water surface roughness for two representative reaches of the River South Tyne, Cumbria, and the River Rede, Northumberland, UK. Data was collected using a terrestrial laser scanner (TLS) and hydraulic variability simply expressed through assigning a local standard deviation value to a set of adjacent water surface values. Statistical linkage of these data with biotope locations defined visually in the field allowed complete mapping of the surveyed reach defining habitat and biotope areas to the fine scale resolution of the TLS data. Despite issues of data loss due to absorption and transmission through the water, the reflected signal generated an extremely detailed and objective map of the water surface roughness, which may be compared with known biotope locations as defined by visual identification in the field. The TLS accuracy achieved in the present study is comparable with those obtained using hyperspectral imagery: with 84% of the pool/glide/marginal deadwater amalgamated biotope, 88% of riffles, 57% of runs and 50% of the amalgamated cascade/rapid biotope successfully plotted. It is clear from this exercise that biotope distribution is more complex than previously mapped using subjective techniques, and based upon the water surface roughness delimiters presented in this study, the amalgamation of pools with glides and marginal dead-waters, riffles with unbroken standing waves, and cascades with rapids, is proposed. Copyright (C) 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Milan DJ, Heritage GL, Large ARG, Entwistle NS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms

Year: 2010

Volume: 35

Issue: 8

Pages: 918-931

Print publication date: 01/06/2010

ISSN (print): 0197-9337

ISSN (electronic): 1096-9837

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1002/esp.1948


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