RADAR MONITORING OF HYDROLOGY IN MARYLAND'S FORESTED COASTAL PLAIN WETLANDS: IMPLICATIONS FOR PREDICTED CLIMATE CHANGE AND IMPROVED MAPPING
Weiner Lang, Megan
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Wetlands provide important services to society but Mid-Atlantic wetlands are at high risk for loss, with forested wetlands being especially vulnerable. Hydrology (flooding and soil moisture) controls wetland function and extent but it may be altered due to changes in climate and anthropogenic influence. Wetland hydrology must better understood in order to predict and mitigate the impact of these changes. Broad-scale forested wetland hydrology is difficult to monitor using ground-based and traditional remote sensing methods. C-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data could improve the capability to monitor forested wetland hydrology but the abilities and limitations of these data need further investigation. This study examined: 1) the link between climate and wetland hydrology; 2) the ability of ENVISAT SAR (C-HH and C-VV) data to monitor inundation and soil moisture in forested wetlands; 3) limitations inherent to C-band data (incidence angle, polarization, and phenology) when monitoring forested wetland hydrology; and 4) the accuracy of forested wetland maps produced using SAR data. The study was primarily conducted near the Patuxent River in Maryland but the influence of incidence angle was considered along the Roanoke River in North Carolina. This study showed: 1) climate was highly correlated with wetland inundation; 2) significant differences in C-VV and C-HH backscatter existed between forested areas of varying hydrology (uplands and wetlands) throughout the year; 3) C-HH backscatter was better correlated to hydrology than C-VV backscatter; 4) correlations were stronger during the leaf-off season; 5) the difference in backscatter between flooded and non-flooded areas did not sharply decline with incidence angle, as predicted; and 6) maps produced using SAR data had relatively high accuracy levels. Based on these findings, I concluded that hydrology is influenced by climate at the study site, and C-HH data should be able to monitor changes in hydrology throughout the year. Larger incidence angles should be explored when using C-HH data to monitor forested wetland hydrology, and C-band SAR has the potential to increase the ability to map forested wetlands throughout the year. The methods developed have the potential to fill the need of managers for increased hydrologic information and improved forested wetland maps.