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Remote Sens. 2017, 9(10), 1057; doi:10.3390/rs9101057

A New Method to Map Groundwater Table in Peatlands Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

1
Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
2
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, The University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 August 2017 / Revised: 30 September 2017 / Accepted: 13 October 2017 / Published: 17 October 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Peatlands)
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Abstract

Groundwater level (GWL) and depth to water (DTW) are related metrics aimed at characterizing groundwater-table positions in peatlands, and two of the most common variables collected by researchers working in these ecosystems. While well-established field techniques exist for measuring GWL and DTW, they are generally difficult to scale. In this study, we present a novel workflow for mapping groundwater using orthophotography and photogrammetric point clouds acquired from unmanned aerial vehicles. Our approach takes advantage of the fact that pockets of surface water are normally abundant in peatlands, which we assume to be reflective of GWL in these porous, gently sloping environments. By first classifying surface water and then extracting a sample of water elevations, we can generate continuous models of GWL through interpolation. Estimates of DTW can then be obtained through additional efforts to characterize terrain. We demonstrate our methodology across a complex, 61-ha treed bog in northern Alberta, Canada. An independent accuracy assessment using 31 temporally coincident water-well measurements revealed accuracies (root mean square error) in the 20-cm range, though errors were concentrated in small upland pockets in the study area, and areas of dense tree covers. Model estimates in the open peatland areas were considerably better. View Full-Text
Keywords: UAV; photogrammetry; groundwater table; peatland; remote sensing; spatial interpolation UAV; photogrammetry; groundwater table; peatland; remote sensing; spatial interpolation
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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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Rahman, M.M.; McDermid, G.J.; Strack, M.; Lovitt, J. A New Method to Map Groundwater Table in Peatlands Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Remote Sens. 2017, 9, 1057.

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