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Using C-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar Data to Monitor Forested Wetland Hydrology in Maryland's Coastal Plain, USA

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2 Author(s)
Megan W. Lang ; U.S. Dept. of Agric., Hydrol. & Remote Sensing Lab., Beltsville, MD ; Eric S. Kasischke

Hydrology (i.e., inundation and soil moisture) is the most important abiotic factor controlling wetland function and extent, and scientists predict that wetland hydrology can be significantly altered over relatively short timescales due to climate change and anthropogenic impact. Whereas broadscale hydrology is difficult to monitor in forested wetlands with ground-based and optical remote sensing methods, C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems have the potential to improve the capability to monitor forested wetland hydrology. In this study, we examined the use of Environmental Satellite Advanced SAR (C-HH and C-VV) data for monitoring levels of inundation and soil moisture throughout the year in a typical Mid-Atlantic floodplain and some of the main limitations inherent to C-band data (i.e., polarization and plant phenology) in this environment. The relationships between the backscatter coefficient and inundation, soil moisture, tree basal area, tree height, and forest canopy closure were examined. Significant differences in C-HH were found between forested areas of varying hydrology (0%-60% area inundated) throughout the year and in C-VV during the leaf-off season. As expected, C-HH SAR backscatter was better correlated with inundation and soil moisture than was C-VV SAR backscatter, and the correlations between both polarizations of backscatter and hydrology were stronger during the leaf-off season (C-HH leaf-off , leaf-on ; C-VV leaf-off , leaf-on ; all significant at level). Based on our findings, we concluded that the C-HH data are useful for monitoring hydrology beneath forest canopies throughout the year, whereas the C-VV data can be used during the leaf-off season. Our findings support previous studies that concluded that C-band imagery can be used to monitor forested wetland hydrology in large floodplains that are fully inundated. However, this study used detailed in situ measurements and demonstrated that C-band SAR data can also be used to monitor- forested wetland hydrology in smaller partially inundated floodplains, which are more common in the Mid-Atlantic.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:46 ,  Issue: 2 )