This study demonstrates the feasibility of using low-altitude aerial photography to inventory submersed macrophytes in the connecting channels of the Great Lakes. For this purpose, we obtained aerial color transparencies and collateral ground truth information about submersed vegetation at 160 stations within four study sites in the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, September 17 to October 4, 1984. Photographs were interpreted by five test subjects to determine with what accuracy they could detect beds of submersed macrophytes, and the precision of delineating the extent of such vegetation beds. The interpreters correctly determined the presence or absence of vegetation 80% of the time (range 73-86%). Differences between individuals were statistically significant. Determination of the presence or absence of macrophytes depended partly on their relative abundance and water clarity. Analysis of one photograph from each of the four study sites revealed that photointerpreters delineated between 35 and 75 ha of river bottom covered by vegetation. This wide range indicates that individuals should be tested to assess their relative capability and be trained before they are employed to delineate plant beds in large-scale inventories. Within limits, low-altitude aerial photography, combined with collateral ground truth information, can be used to determine the presence or absence and delineate the extent of submersed macrophytes in connecting channels of the Great Lakes.
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Use of aerial photography to inventory aquatic vegetation