Using airborne multispectral imagery to evaluate geomorphic work across floodplains of gravel-bed rivers

M. S. Lorang, D. C. Whited, F. R. Hauer, J. S. Kimball, J. A. Stanford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Fluvial processes of cut and fill alluviation and channel abandonment or avulsion are essential for maintaining the ecological health of floodplain ecosystems characteristic of gravel-bed rivers. These dynamic processes shape the floodplain landscape, resulting in a shifting mosaic of habitats, both above and below ground. We present a new and innovative methodology to quantitatively assess the geomorphic work potential necessary to maintain a shifting habitat mosaic for gravel-bed river floodplains. This approach can be used to delineate critical habitats for preservation through land acquisition and conservation easements, often critical elements of river restoration plans worldwide. Spatially explicit modeling of water depth, flow velocity, shear stress, and stream power derived from surface hydraulic measurements was combined with airborne multispectral remote sensing for detailed modeling of floodplain water surfaces over tens to hundreds of square kilometers. The model results were then combined within a GIS framework to determine potential nodes of channel avulsion that delineate spatially explicit zones across the floodplain where the potential for geomorphic work is the greatest. Results of this study demonstrate the utility of integrating existing multispectral remote sensing data coupled with time-lagged ground-based measures of flow hydraulics to model fluvial processes at relatively fine spatial resolutions but over broad regional extents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1222
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Airborne multispectral imagery
  • Floodplain
  • Geomorphology
  • Gravel-bed rivers
  • River restoration
  • Stream power


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