Spectrally based mapping of riverbed composition

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Remote sensing methods provide an efficient means of characterizing fluvial systems. This study evaluated the potential to map riverbed composition based on in situ and/or remote measurements of reflectance. Field spectra and substrate photos from the Snake River, Wyoming, USA, were used to identify different sediment facies and degrees of algal development and to quantify their optical characteristics. We hypothesized that accounting for the effects of depth and water column attenuation to isolate the reflectance of the streambed would enhance distinctions among bottom types and facilitate substrate classification. A bottom reflectance retrieval algorithm adapted from coastal research yielded realistic spectra for the 450 to 700 nm range; but bottom reflectance-based substrate classifications, generated using a random forest technique, were no more accurate than classifications derived from above-water field spectra. Additional hypothesis testing indicated that a combination of reflectance magnitude (brightness) and indices of spectral shape provided the most accurate riverbed classifications. Convolving field spectra to the response functions of a multispectral satellite and a hyperspectral imaging system did not reduce classification accuracies, implying that high spectral resolution was not essential. Supervised classifications of algal density produced from hyperspectral data and an inferred bottom reflectance image were not highly accurate, but unsupervised classification of the bottom reflectance image revealed distinct spectrally based clusters, suggesting that such an image could provide additional river information. We attribute the failure of bottom reflectance retrieval to yield more reliable substrate maps to a latent correlation between depth and bottom type. Accounting for the effects of depth might have eliminated a key distinction among substrates and thus reduced discriminatory power. Although further, more systematic study across a broader range of fluvial environments is needed to substantiate our initial results, this case study suggests that bed composition in shallow, clear-flowing rivers potentially could be mapped remotely.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spectrally based mapping of riverbed composition
Series title Geomorphology
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.04.006
Volume 264
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier Science Pub. Co.
Publisher location New York, NY
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Central Branch
Description 19 p.
First page 61
Last page 79
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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