Mapping stream habitats with a global positioning system: Accuracy, precision, and comparison with traditional methods

Environmental Management

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DOI: 10.1007/s00267-004-0270-z



We tested the precision and accuracy of the Trimble GeoXT??? global positioning system (GPS) handheld receiver on point and area features and compared estimates of stream habitat dimensions (e.g., lengths and areas of riffles and pools) that were made in three different Oklahoma streams using the GPS receiver and a tape measure. The precision of differentially corrected GPS (DGPS) points was not affected by the number of GPS position fixes (i.e., geographic location estimates) averaged per DGPS point. Horizontal error of points ranged from 0.03 to 2.77 m and did not differ with the number of position fixes per point. The error of area measurements ranged from 0.1% to 110.1% but decreased as the area increased. Again, error was independent of the number of position fixes averaged per polygon corner. The estimates of habitat lengths, widths, and areas did not differ when measured using two methods of data collection (GPS and a tape measure), nor did the differences among methods change at three stream sites with contrasting morphologies. Measuring features with a GPS receiver was up to 3.3 times faster on average than using a tape measure, although signal interference from high streambanks or overhanging vegetation occasionally limited satellite signal availability and prolonged measurements with a GPS receiver. There were also no differences in precision of habitat dimensions when mapped using a continuous versus a position fix average GPS data collection method. Despite there being some disadvantages to using the GPS in stream habitat studies, measuring stream habitats with a GPS resulted in spatially referenced data that allowed the assessment of relative habitat position and changes in habitats over time, and was often faster than using a tape measure. For most spatial scales of interest, the precision and accuracy of DGPS data are adequate and have logistical advantages when compared to traditional methods of measurement. ?? 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

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Mapping stream habitats with a global positioning system: Accuracy, precision, and comparison with traditional methods
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Environmental Management
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Environmental Management
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