Effective conservation of woodland vernal pools—important components of regional amphibian diversity and ecosystem services—depends on locating and mapping these pools accurately. Current methods for identifying potential vernal pools are primarily based on visual interpretation and digitization of aerial photographs, with variable accuracy and low repeatability. In this paper, we present an effective and efficient method for detecting and mapping potential vernal pools using stochastic depression analysis with additional geospatial analysis. Our method was designed to take advantage of high-resolution light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data, which are becoming increasingly available, though not yet frequently employed in vernal pool studies. We successfully detected more than 2000 potential vernal pools in a ~150 km2
study area in eastern Massachusetts. The accuracy assessment in our study indicated that the commission rates ranged from 2.5% to 6.0%, while the proxy omission rate was 8.2%, rates that are much lower than reported errors of previous vernal pool studies conducted in the northeastern United States. One significant advantage of our semi-automated approach for vernal pool identification is that it may reduce inconsistencies and alleviate repeatability concerns associated with manual photointerpretation methods. Another strength of our strategy is that, in addition to detecting the point-based vernal pool locations for the inventory, the boundaries of vernal pools can be extracted as polygon features to characterize their geometric properties, which are not available in the current statewide vernal pool databases in Massachusetts.
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