Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4656
Title: A methodological intercomparison of topographic survey techniques for characterizing in-stream habitat
Author: Sara Bangen, Joseph M. Wheaton, Nicholaas Bouwes, Boyd Bouwes, Chris E. Jordan
Publication Year: 2013
Journal: Geomorphology
Keywords: topographic survey,

Fine-scale (submeter) resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) created from high precision (subcentimeter) instruments (e.g., total station, rtkGPS, and laser scanning) have become ubiquitous in the field of fluvial geomorphology. They permit a diverse range of spatially explicit analyses including hydraulic modeling, habitat modeling, and geomorphic change detection. While previous studies have assessed the quality of specific topographic survey methods at individual sites or across a limited number of sites, an intercomparison of survey technologies across a diverse range of wadeable streams could help clarify which techniques are feasible, as well as which work best under what circumstances and for what purposes. Although a wealth of existing studies and protocols explain how to undertake each individual technique, in this study we seek to provide guidance on what techniques to use in which circumstances. We quantified the relative quality and the amount of effort spent collecting data to derive bare earth topography from an array of ground-based and airborne survey techniques. We used topographic survey data collected over the summer of 2010 from six sample reaches of varying complexity in the Lemhi River basin, Idaho, USA. We attempted to conduct complete, replicate surveys at each site using total station (TS), real-time kinematic (rtk) GPS, discrete return terrestrial laser scanner (TLS), and airborne LiDaR surveys (ALS). We evaluated the precision and accuracy of derived bare earth DEMs relative to the higher precision total station point data. Discrepancies between pairwise techniques were calculated using propagated DEM errors thresholded at a 95% confidence interval. Mean discrepancies between total station and rtkGPS DEMs were relatively low (≤ 0.05 m), yet TS data collection time was up to 2.4 times longer than rtkGPS. The ALS DEMs had lower accuracy than TS or rtkGPS DEMs, but the aerial coverage and floodplain context of the ALS data set was superior to all other techniques. The TLS bare earth DEM accuracy and precision were lower than any other technique because of vegetation returns misinterpreted as ground returns. Our results are helpful for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.

Theme: Habitats to Support Sustainable Fisheries and Recovered Populations
Foci: Characterize habitat effects on ecosystem processes, ecological interactions and the health of organisms.