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Open AccessArticle

On the Potential of Sentinel-1 for High Resolution Monitoring of Water Table Dynamics in Grasslands on Organic Soils

Thünen Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture, 38116 Braunschweig, Germany
KU Leuven, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
KU Leuven, Department of Computer Science, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Remote Sens. 2019, 11(14), 1659;
Received: 13 June 2019 / Revised: 3 July 2019 / Accepted: 9 July 2019 / Published: 11 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Remote Sensing of Peatlands II)
PDF [3739 KB, uploaded 11 July 2019]


For soils with shallow groundwater and high organic carbon content, water table depth (WTD) is a key parameter to describe their hydrologic state and to estimate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Since the microwave backscatter coefficient (σ0) is sensitive to soil moisture, the application of Sentinel-1 satellite data might support the monitoring of these climate-relevant soils at high spatial resolution (~100 m) by detecting spatial and temporal changes in local field and water management. Despite the low penetration depth of the C-band, σ0 is influenced by shallow WTD fluctuations via the soil hydraulic connection between the water table and surface soil. Here, we analyzed σ0 at 60 monitoring wells in a drained temperate peatland with degraded organic soils used as extensive grassland. We evaluated temporal Spearman correlation coefficients between σ0 and WTD considering the soil and vegetation information. To account for the effects of seasonal vegetation changes, we used the cross-over (incidence) angle method. Climatologies of the slope of the incidence angle dependency derived from two years of Sentinel-1 data and their application to the cross-over angle method did improve correlations, though the effect was minor. Overall, averaged over all sites, a temporal Spearman correlation coefficient of 0.45 (±0.17) was obtained. The loss of correlation during summer (higher vegetation, deeper WTD) and the effects of cuts and grazing are discussed. The site-specific general wetness level, described by the mean WTD of each site was shown to be a major factor controlling the strength of the correlation. Mean WTD deeper than about −0.60 m lowered the correlations across sites, which might indicate an important limit of the application. View Full-Text
Keywords: SAR; groundwater table; peatland; soil moisture; hydrology; wetland; radar SAR; groundwater table; peatland; soil moisture; hydrology; wetland; radar

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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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Asmuß, T.; Bechtold, M.; Tiemeyer, B. On the Potential of Sentinel-1 for High Resolution Monitoring of Water Table Dynamics in Grasslands on Organic Soils. Remote Sens. 2019, 11, 1659.

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