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Remote Sens. 2018, 10(4), 536; https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10040536

Inferring Water Table Depth Dynamics from ENVISAT-ASAR C-Band Backscatter over a Range of Peatlands from Deeply-Drained to Natural Conditions

1
KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
2
KU Leuven, Department of Computer Science, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
3
Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
4
Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, Vienna University of Technology, 1040 Vienna, Austria
Current address: Acopian Center for the Environment, American University of Armenia, Yerevan 0019, Armenia.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 February 2018 / Revised: 21 March 2018 / Accepted: 29 March 2018 / Published: 31 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Peatlands)
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Abstract

Water table depth (WTD) is one of the key variables controlling many processes in peatlands. Reliable WTD estimates based on remote sensing data would advance peatland research from global-scale climate monitoring to field-scale ecosystem management. Here, we evaluate the relationship between ENVISAT Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) C-band backscatter (σ°) and in situ observed WTD dynamics over 17 peatlands in Germany covering deeply-drained to natural conditions, excluding peatlands dominated by forest or inundation periods. The results show increasing σ° with shallower WTD (=wetter conditions), with average temporal Pearson correlation coefficients of 0.38 and 0.54 (-) for natural (also including disturbed and rewetted/restored states) and agriculturally-used drained peatlands, respectively. The anomaly correlation further highlights the potential of ASAR backscatter to capture interannual variations with values of 0.33 and 0.43 (-), for natural and drained peatlands. The skill metrics, which are similar to those for evaluations of top soil moisture from C-band over mineral soils, indicate a strong capillary connection between WTD and the ‘C-band-sensitive’ top 1–2 cm of peat soils, even during dry periods with WTD at around −1 m. Various backscatter processing algorithms were tested without significant differences. The cross-over angle concept for correcting dynamical vegetation effects was tested, but not superior, to constant incidence angle correction. View Full-Text
Keywords: SAR; peatland; bog; fen; wetland; drainage; water table depth; soil moisture; backscatter; cross-over angle SAR; peatland; bog; fen; wetland; drainage; water table depth; soil moisture; backscatter; cross-over angle
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Bechtold, M.; Schlaffer, S.; Tiemeyer, B.; De Lannoy, G. Inferring Water Table Depth Dynamics from ENVISAT-ASAR C-Band Backscatter over a Range of Peatlands from Deeply-Drained to Natural Conditions. Remote Sens. 2018, 10, 536.

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