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GCE III - Key Finding in 2014

    Mapping marsh habitat with remote sensing

    The production of accurate habitat and elevation maps for low-lying coastal areas such as salt marshes is critically important for flood inundation mapping, coastal hazard assessments and modeling sea level rise. We used a combination of LiDAR and hyperspectral imagery to produce both an accurate DEM and an improved habitat classification for the marshes on the Duplin River (Hladik and Alber 2013). This map served as the basis for a detailed evaluation of the relationship between marsh platform geomorphology, vegetation composition and biomass, and invertebrate patterns (Schalles et al. 2013). Building on this effort, Hladik and Alber (2014) compared the use of remote sensing-derived metrics for the prediction of salt marsh vegetation type with classifications based on field-collected edaphic variables. Their results suggest that a combination of elevation, slope, distance to mean high water, and distance to upland, all of which can be obtained through remote sensing, can be used to predict vegetation types in a salt marsh, and that they are more effective than field-collected edaphic variables (Fig 1). This finding is exciting because the edaphic parameters are spatially and temporally limited and are more labor-intensive to collect than remote sensing. Hence, this method will be useful to researchers and coastal managers interested in predicting ecosystem-wide characteristics over space and time. This approach also has potential for predicting the effects of sea level rise on salt marsh plant distributions.


    Fig. 1 Biplots of linear discriminant function one (LD1) and two (LD2) for (A) edaphic predictor variables (water content, salinity, and redox)) and (B) remote sensing-derived predictor variables (DEM elevation in relation to MHW, slope and distances to MHW and uplands. Colors indicate LDA class assignments. ST: tall S. alterniflora; SS-SM: short and medium S. alterniflora; MM: marsh meadow; and BF-JR: B. frutescens and J. roemerianus. From Hladik and Alber (2014).


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.